Innovate Edmonton VP Cheryll Watson shares more information and thoughts on the latest funding announcement for Startup Edmonton from the City of Edmonton.
Edmonton is one of Canada’s youngest cities with the highest discretionary income in the country. We are the most affordable major city to live in; we have some of the country’s best educational institutions; and, this city has been quietly leading the way in three key sectors: artificial intelligence and machine learning, health and life sciences, and big data and analytics. However, we are competing with the world to attract and keep the kind of people who are pushing this work ahead. There is a real risk of falling behind, and there are significant consequences to our economic prosperity if the brightest minds from our educational institutions don’t consider Edmonton as the best place for them to build a life and career. This risk is why we believe it is essential that we double down and focus seriously on talent retention through Startup Edmonton.
Startup Edmonton is a business unit managed by Innovate Edmonton, a division of EEDC. Earlier this year, we adjusted a request for funding from City Council to increase the reach and capacity of Startup Edmonton at our post-secondary institutions, allow for industry-focused programming, and improve our own programming space at the Mercer Warehouse building.
We received a portion of the funding requested which we will direct to building upon our current student programming success. Much of our student activities focus on University of Alberta students including on-site campus presence and program delivery. This funding will enable us to expand our program delivery and student interactions to focus heavily on more students at post-secondary institutions like NAIT, MacEwan University, and Concordia.
Student programming at Startup Edmonton focuses on connecting students with all the opportunities afforded to them by the Edmonton startup, technology and innovation community. Creating opportunities to build relationships with the teams at startup, scaling, and enterprise tech companies; providing students with the skills to be successful on those teams upon graduation or launch their own products; and to form peer connections that will help them achieve success through their academic journey. Programming for students is far more than recruitment to a specific role at a company or a membership at Startup Edmonton; it creates stickiness and social cohesion that makes choosing to build a life in Edmonton easier.
Since 2013, Startup Edmonton has focused on tech-enabled student engagement. In the 2018/2019 school term Startup Edmonton, had more than 4000 interactions with students and 800 student members – one of the most significant student member databases in Canada. The opportunities offered to students through these engagements and membership needs to be extended to our other post-secondary institutions to ensure we showcase the opportunities our city can offer. We can’t afford to lose our graduating talent, just when they’re deciding where to build a career and a life.
Startup Edmonton helps tech-interested students find their place in the startup community. That’s everything from meeting startup and scaling companies to work for, building hackathon projects, or accessing support to launch their own company. We know what Edmonton has to offer, and beyond a digital marketing campaign, we need to look at our next generation of leaders in the eye and spark their inspiration.
Vice President, Innovate Edmonton