The University of Alberta has launched an investment fund targeting startup ventures that are working to solve challenges while diversifying the province’s economy by providing support for entrepreneurs across the region.
The U of A Innovation Fund, supported by both private donors and public partners, intends to work with startups to mobilize the university’s research expertise and creativity, according to a recent statement from the university.
“The Innovation Fund will help position the University of Alberta as a global leader in advancing the commercialization of research that will spur economic growth and improve lives,” affirms U of A president Bill Flanagan.
According to Flanagan, the fund “will create jobs across Alberta and beyond, diversifying our economy and enriching the university’s long-standing culture of innovation—all while inspiring the next generation of entrepreneurial leaders.”
The fund is expected to grow over time to $50 million through donor support and will focus on innovation in artificial intelligence, health, energy, and agriculture—all of which are “areas of outstanding research strength at the University of Alberta,” Flanagan says.
“This is an important part of the larger vision outlined in the university’s strategic plan,” the president explains, “and will help us increase our research impact over the next decade.”
The Government of Alberta committed $500,000 toward the fund, noting how it will “attract more talent and directly contribute to Alberta’s thriving tech and innovation ecosystem.”
Nate Glubish, minister of technology and innovation for the province, stated at a launch event at the university’s Enterprise Square campus last week that Alberta is becoming “Canada’s preferred destination for innovation” due to support from programs like the Innovation Fund and organizations like Alberta Innovates, which is pouring millions of dollars into the intersection of artificial intelligence technology and agriculture.
Companies chosen by the fund will receive access to networks, financial support, and opportunities to enter new markets, according to Sheetal Mehta Walsh, CEO of the fund.
Through the fund, Walsh aims to “champion made-in-Alberta successes on a global scale.”
Ventures will receive in-person and online education sessions on business topics such as entrepreneurship and financial literacy, Walsh said, as well as access to the fund’s innovation portal—an online community platform which provides further opportunities to tap information and resources and share ideas.
Led by seasoned executives and advisers with investment expertise, the fund team includes undergraduate students from a cross-section of U of A faculties, according to Walsh.
“This helps establish a culture of mentorship and an entrepreneurial mindset across disciplines,” she believes, “ensuring that students gain the skills and connections needed to become our next generation of entrepreneurs.”
The U of A Innovation Fund’s initial investment is in RL Core Technologies, a budding Edmonton-based company that uses an AI-powered approach called reinforcement learning to improve the efficiency and performance of industrial control systems.