This week, City Council made an historic, bold decision and unanimously approved the formation of a new innovation entity. This entity will pick up on some of the work previously done by the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation and strongly focus an economic development lens on Edmonton’s innovation ecosystem. This decision by Council marks a key shift in how the City will be approaching economic development. Edmonton Innovates will focus on the long term goal of developing a robust tech community, supported by strong talent and financial investment. Edmonton Tourism, formerly a division under EEDC, will shift to enhance our existing visitor economy and events, and Edmonton Business, business retention and expansion programming — including COVID-19 recovery work — will become an enhanced unit within the City’s economic development branch. Yesterday’s decision was the culmination of many long Council discussions and a lot of hard work by countless individuals. It is also a major change that I have been clamoring to see during my time on Council. After witnessing the current status and potential missed opportunities that we’ve endured in this sector, it was clear that major disruption was needed. In short, this was a big day for the future of economic development in our city. Change would not have happened without the contributions of the innovation community in Edmonton. Throughout our conversations, I have met dozens of people who were not looking out for themselves, but wanting to make things easier for the next round of entrepreneurs to reach even greater heights of success. This is the kind of selfless thinking that will continue to enable collaboration and fundamentally success in our city. I’d like to wholeheartedly commend my colleagues for taking a risk on this idea. They took steps to learn more about technology and the innovation ecosystem within Alberta, attended events and met diligently with stakeholders. I also want to thank our City Administration for their excellent work on this file and acknowledge the tremendous work of the staff at EEDC to reimagine the future of their organization. Silicon Valley as we know it was not built overnight. It is the product of decades of investment by the American government, and more specifically through defence research programs such as DARPA. It is a perfect example of a robust ecosystem that began with early investment from the government. Alberta’s story is not so different and investment in innovation is very much a part of our story, too. For decades the provincial and federal governments invested in agricultural research, health innovation and oil and gas so that our unique resources could be more viable in a global marketplace. So this next step — an intentional investment in innovation — is very much an Edmonton thing to do. What are our next steps? What challenges lay ahead? Council approval of the innovation entity means that City Administration can start recruiting a board of directors. The board, in turn, will be recruiting a CEO. As the sole shareholder of the new organization, it will be incumbent on City Council to remain consistently engaged and knowledgeable about the issues facing our innovation sector. Of course, we are not doing this alone; we are doing this with a community, with advice from experts in the field, with the guidance of Edmontonians. Regardless of what you see as the big challenge of our time — climate change, food security, the ability to adapt to a rapidly changing world — we need as many people at the table with us as possible. This decision marks a serious investment by Council and the City of Edmonton in entrepreneurs, in the future of our economy, and in the people who are going to create jobs and opportunities here and I am excited for the possibilities for our city.
“There won’t be a sector that is untouched by this, and by investing in innovation now we’re ensuring that kids growing up today will have a reason to stay in Edmonton." — Councillor Hamilton