Sets sights on $50 million target for innovation fund
The University of Alberta has launched the University of Alberta Innovation Fund, an initiative aimed at helping diversify the Alberta economy by assisting startups tackling global issues. The fund, backed by private donors and public partners, will leverage the university’s research and innovation capabilities.
“The Innovation Fund will help position the University of Alberta as a global leader in advancing the commercialization of research that will spur economic growth and improve lives,” said U of A president Bill Flanagan. “It will create jobs across Alberta and beyond, diversifying our economy and enriching the university’s long-standing culture of innovation – all while inspiring the next generation of entrepreneurial leaders.”
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The fund aims to reach $50 million through donations, and offers startups monetary support, mentorship, and a platform to turn their ideas into reality.
Flanagan said the fund will prioritize areas such as artificial intelligence, health, energy, and agriculture. “Our strategic vision in Shape: A Strategic Plan of Impact aims to increase our research influence over the next 10 years,” he added.
Nate Glubish, Alberta’s technology and innovation minister, announced a $500,000 contribution to the fund from his government at the event launching the fund. “The Innovation Fund will position Alberta as a top spot for innovation in Canada.”
The fund will operate independently and identify and recommend startup investments for the University of Alberta to ensure a continuous cycle of innovation investments.
Sheetal Mehta Walsh, CEO of the fund, said that the companies chosen to participate will receive financial backing, access to global markets, and networking opportunities. An online hub, the innovation portal, will also provide knowledge, resources, and collaboration opportunities.
The fund’s team consists of experienced executives and U of A undergraduates from various faculties. “Including students ensures they get the skills needed for entrepreneurial roles in the future,” Walsh said.
The fund’s first investment is in Edmonton-based RL Core Technologies, an AI startup. Martha White, its CEO, highlighted the fund’s role in bringing AI research to the market. RL Core Technologies has applied its technology – which uses reinforcement learning, an AI technique, to optimize industrial control systems – to save energy in drinking water treatment and plans to expand to areas like smart heating and cooling systems.
Adam White, Martha’s partner, spoke about the technology’s potential. “Our AI can integrate across industries and update existing automated systems,” he said.
Adam also highlighted the benefits of greater automation. “By making systems like water treatment more automatic, remote communities will benefit with less manual involvement needed,” he said.
Martha expressed gratitude for being the fund’s first pick. “The U of A has supported us throughout, and we expect this partnership to bring great connections,” she said.
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