Edmonton, Alberta: On The Short List For Global Players

The Edmonton Metro region is an innovative hub of emerging growth sectors with a diverse and talented population creating opportunities for investment right now. 

By the BF Staff
From the January/February 2021 Issue

For investors looking to capitalize on opportunities that have emerged as a result of the evolving global economic landscape, the Edmonton Metropolitan Region should be on their short list and the reason for this is simple. The region has what the world needs to solve some of its biggest challenges.

Located at the center of western Canada, the region has plentiful food, a robust manufacturing sector, innovations in clean energy, a strong life sciences sector, artificial intelligence (AI) expertise and a diverse and talented population creating opportunities for investment right now.

The Edmonton Metropolitan Region is made up of 15 municipalities, with a population of 1.4 million people and the 5th largest economy in Canada. (Source: Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute)

Industry is quickly evolving, with AI at the forefront. Early adopters are seeing substantial growth, while those unable to shift their business models will struggle for survival. As one of the biggest drivers of value for businesses, AI is expected to add as much as $15.7 trillion to the global economy by 2030.

The University of Alberta in Edmonton is ranked 3rd globally for AI research and attracts talent from all over the world to study and work alongside AI thought leaders making world-leading discoveries in the field of reinforcement learning. This is why Google’s DeepMind chose the Edmonton region for its first international lab.

“We’re going to solve AI,” says Adam White, senior researcher at DeepMind, “and we’re going to do that in Edmonton, Alberta.”

Toyota, Volkswagen, Google Brain and IBM are also investing in the region looking to chase that talent.

Talent attracts talent in research heavy fields such as AI and the life sciences sector. The Edmonton region has emerged as an attractive destination for some of the world’s best researchers in life sciences and biotechnology. Scientists in the region are solving some of the world’s biggest health challenges, including diabetes, cancer and infectious diseases—including the development of a vaccine for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Dr. Michael Houghton has long been considered a superstar in the field for his work in identifying the hepatitis C virus—work for which he received a Nobel Prize just last month. He continues his quest for a vaccine at the La Ka Shing Institute of Virology in Edmonton—a world-class research facility housed within the University of Alberta.

“There’s an opportunity to invest into the research that is happening and grow pharmaceutical manufacturing capacity,” says Malcolm Bruce, CEO of Edmonton Global, a regional economic development organization working to attract international investment into the region. “The Edmonton Metropolitan Region is home to a cluster of chemical companies, world-class expertise, accessible health datasets from 4.5 million people and a surplus of tech talent. The Edmonton International Airport (EIA) is the first airport in Canada to successfully secure CEIV (Center of Excellence for Independent Validators) certification for pharmaceutical handling. This means we have the expertise and capabilities needed to get drugs and vaccines to international markets. We’re well positioned to be an emerging hub for pharmaceutical R&D and production.”

COVID-19 has led to an increased focus on the importance of internal food security, which includes both sustainable practices and shorter supply chains. At the same time, there is a global shift happening in the way people are consuming food. Western consumers are eating less meat due to environmental and health concerns, while consumers in emerging markets are looking to add more protein to their diets.

Protein rich products like peas, beans, lentils and canola provide the solutions—and Canada has more of these products than anywhere else in the world. Plant-based protein is one of the fastest-growing agri-food sub-sectors globally. By 2030, demand for plant-based protein is anticipated to reach $100 billion. Canada is the world’s largest exporter of pulse crops and canola.

“There’s huge opportunity to invest in the agri-food sector in the Edmonton region,” says Bruce. “Processing closer to the point of harvest will increase profits for investors.”

Nabati Foods is a relatively new regional business capitalizing on this opportunity. They’ve developed and are producing a line of plant-based cheesecakes, cheese shreds and meat alternatives. They have expanded into the U.S. market and are building a new facility, seven-times larger than its current manufacturing space, to support their plans to enter the European market.

Nutraceuticals are also primed for investment in the region. In fact, one of the Edmonton region’s fastest growing companies is in the nutraceutical business. BioNeutra had a five-year growth rate of 1,378 percent and is ranked as one of Canada’s fastest growing companies. “There are a number of immediately viable opportunities here, where investors can capitalize on significant returns on their investments,” adds Bruce. “The new economic realities of COVID-19 are making these opportunities even more attractive and timely.”

Energy production has long been the economic backbone of the Edmonton Metropolitan Region and world-leading innovation in this sector continues to drive growth. As governments around the world are adopting policies aimed at securing a carbon neutral future, hydrogen has emerged as a likely solution to countries wanting to reach those targets.

“We see this as a huge opportunity,” says Bruce. “The Edmonton region is among the world’s lowest cost producers of hydrogen and is in a stronger position than any other region in North America to become a central hub of this new economic driver.”

The Edmonton region’s unique value proposition is at the intersection of traditional and emerging sectors. That’s why innovation is so interesting there. Combining strengths in agriculture, energy and life sciences with expertise in emerging technologies like AI, automation and clean energy, creates opportunities unique to the Edmonton Metropolitan Region. Connect with the team at Edmonton Global to learn more.

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