Working together in the trenches of technology commercialization

June 11, 2009— Calgary, Alberta

Calgary Technologies Inc.

While Calgary’s economic strength began with the development of oil and gas resources, the city’s entrepreneurs envisioned even greater depth through business diversification. This vision proved fruitful when a major downturn in the petroleum industry in the early 1980s led to the rise of many new businesses in a variety of sectors.

Years later, the results of this drive for diversification are now apparent. Calgary has become home to hundreds of innovative firms in fields such as software engineering, geomatics, and digital media. Many of these entrepreneurs were nurtured by Calgary Technologies Inc. (CTI). CTI provides a wide range of commercialization support programs and services, including matching companies with experienced mentors to help them develop the skills needed for success.

"This isn't something that you learn from a degree program," says Darren Massey, CTI's Vice-President, Innovation and Technology Commercialization. “This is something that you learn by fire."

Based in the city’s University Research Park, CTI has steadily added space where fledgling firms can set up shop. Their facility has expanded to 120,000 square feet, offering a viable site for activities that need to move beyond the confines of someone’s basement or garage.

Massey remarks that his organization—and especially its clients—have benefitted from an extensive track record, which has accumulated more than its fair share of corporate memory. "It's obviously an enduring commitment by the city, and for that matter, also by the province and federal counterparts who support us," he says.

Among the most enduring of these supporters has been the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP), which offers advisory services as well as financial support to small- and medium-sized enterprises engaged in S&T research and development projects. NRC-IRAP has regularly provided a portion of the core funding CTI needs to deliver its own programs.

"Our relationship with NRC-IRAP includes a great deal of synergy; our goals are the same," Massey explains. "Our means and our programs are different. Our clients may see NRC-IRAP as a source of funding or technical knowledge. They see CTI as a source of business and market expertise. That’s a good complement."

In fact, when entrepreneurs are not quite ready for the opportunities presented by NRC-IRAP, the Program’s Industrial Technology Advisors often refer these individuals to CTI, which helps them acquire the necessary expertise.

CTI deals with some 300 clients each year, helping more than half of them in direct, one-to-one sessions, as well as providing dozens of group seminars and workshops. By providing a higher profile for local start-up companies, CTI is attracting investment and talent to the city, as well as to the province.

One of the key mechanisms for doing so is TechRev, an initiative that showcases technology firms at events several times each year. According to Massey, TechRev is premised on helping companies get noticed by investors who are not aware of what Alberta’s advanced technology sector has to offer, and how well that sector is doing. Such an event clearly meets NRC-IRAP’s objectives as well.

"NRC-IRAP support is instrumental in the successful delivery of CTI's program and, ultimately, the success of emerging technology companies in the Calgary region," Massey explains. "NRC-IRAP understands the needs of these companies, with programs that complement our own, ensuring an integrated and supportive commercialization system."

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