YYC Startups, Take Note:

Innovate Calgary's Got Your Back


Advisory support, funding, facilities, IP protection, global fellowships and regulatory approvals all in one place

Innovate Calgary is a private company owned by the university that focuses on increasing the number of tech-backed startups that come out of the university and are supported in the community. The organization has been around for 36 years and offers various programs open to everyone in Alberta and Canada. During a recent info session, Executive Director of New Ventures at Innovate Calgary, Adam Cragg, discussed some key highlights and takeaways entrepreneurs should know to help their startups grow.

Innovation Hubs

Innovate Calgary operates three innovation hubs: a life science innovation hub, an energy transition center, and a social innovation hub. Each hub offers a complete set of offerings for a startup and has curated products and equipment to fit that vertical. Memberships for startups cost $3,000 a year and provide access to all equipment, $10,000 in expert advisor support and the ability to move around the ecosystem and get connected to the resources needed to grow a startup. The hubs also have five in-house venture capital funds that startups can apply to.

Expert Advisor Program

Innovate Calgary pays consultants $100 an hour to help startups with their early tech development. Most of these consultants actually charge three, four, five, or even $600 an hour, but Innovate Calgary offers this support for $100 an hour. In addition, memberships include $10,000 worth of consulting support, which can be used to help startups grow.

Elevate Program to Fund IP Protection

Innovate Calgary is the Albertan representative of a federal program called Elevate. Through this program, Innovate Calgary will pay for 150 startups' patents per year to increase the IP protection that startups have access to. The goal is to ensure that early-stage investors can be confident that their investment will go towards company growth and not just filing fees.

Expertise and Facilities

Innovate Calgary has about 60 people, many with prestigious PhDs, that can help companies with their early tech development for their startup. In addition, the organization works with hundreds of external advisors and has scores of programs. For example, the Life Science Innovation Hub is a 150,000-square-foot facility with 50,000 square feet of wet lab space. Companies can rent a three-foot portion of a wet lab space on a month-to-month basis, and there is access to prototyping equipment.

Fellowship Programs

Innovate Calgary offers fellowship programs for companies from around the world. Companies can work with Innovate Calgary for two years and receive $250,000 for no equity out of their business. After two years, the companies are a suitable investment for Innovate Calgary's in-house venture capital funds. Innovate Calgary places about 15 to 18 of these fellowship companies every year. Four fellowship programs are available, including a life sciences fellowship, an energy fellowship, a physical device fellowship, and a forthcoming social impact fellowship.

Regulatory Approval Support

Innovate Calgary has a group called Impact that helps medical device companies get regulatory approval. They have worked with hundreds of companies and have intentionally subsidized rates for startups that need regulatory pathways. The support is powered by a platform that makes it scalable and more cost-effective than other alternatives for startups that need to go through a medical device regulatory path.

Final Thoughts

Innovate Calgary is a comprehensive resource for entrepreneurs and startups looking for support in Alberta and Canada. With expertise, facilities, fellowship programs, and regulatory approval support, Innovate Calgary can provide tech startups with everything they need to grow their business.