The University of Alberta has launched a new fund to invest in early-stage companies aimed at solving the complex challenges facing the world and diversifying Alberta’s economy, providing much-needed funding and additional support to innovators and entrepreneurs.
THE University of Alberta Innovation Fundsupported by private donors and public partners, will work with startups to mobilize the university’s research expertise, innovation and creativity.
“The Innovation Fund will help position the University of Alberta as a global leader in promoting the commercialization of research that will drive economic growth and improve quality of life,” said the president of the University of Alberta. ‘University of Alberta, Bill Flanagan. “It will create jobs across Alberta and beyond, diversify our economy and enrich the university’s long-standing culture of innovation, while inspiring the next generation of entrepreneurial leaders.”
Expected to grow to $50 million over time through donor support, the fund enables innovative startups from the University of Alberta and beyond to unlock their potential through access to financial support, mentoring and to expertise, allowing them to move from concept to reality.
Capitalize on research excellence
“The fund will focus on innovations in artificial intelligence, health, energy and agriculture, all exceptional areas of research at the University of Alberta,” adds Flanagan. “This is an important part of the broader vision outlined in the university’s strategic plan, Shape: a strategic impact planand will help us increase the impact of our research over the next decade.
“The University of Alberta Innovation Fund will attract more talent and directly contribute to Alberta’s thriving technology and innovation ecosystem, confirming our growing reputation as Canada’s premier destination for innovation,” said Nate Glubish, Minister of technology and innovationwho was present at a launch event at the university’s Enterprise Square campus on Oct. 17 to announce the Alberta government’s commitment to contribute $500,000 to the fund.
As an independent entity with its own board of directors, the fund will conduct due diligence and recommend investment opportunities to the University of Alberta in startups that benefit Albertans, providing investment returns, that the university will pay back by reinvesting in future innovations.
Companies chosen by the fund will benefit from access to strategic networks, initial and subsequent financial support and opportunities to enter global markets, says Sheetal Mehta WalshCEO of the fund.
“Additionally, they will be encouraged to take advantage of all the supports our province has to offer so we can champion Alberta’s successes on a global scale,” she said.
Businesses will also receive additional support in the form of in-person and online training sessions on business topics such as entrepreneurship and financial literacy. Alongside this, the fund’s Innovation Portal, an online community platform, provides further opportunities to access information and resources and share ideas.
Led by seasoned senior executives and key advisors with investment expertise, the fund team also includes undergraduate students from a cross-section of University of Alberta faculties, notes Walsh.
“This helps establish a culture of mentorship and an entrepreneurial mindset across all disciplines, ensuring students gain the skills and connections needed to become our next generation of entrepreneurs.”
First investment will advance ambitious AI startup
The support offered through the Innovation Fund will be instrumental in propelling their AI research into the marketplace, where it can make a significant difference, says a University of Alberta researcher. Marthe BlancCEO and co-founder of RL Core Technologies, the first company chosen to invest.
“We’re aiming for something ambitious that can have a very big impact,” says White, an associate professor at the Faculty of Sciences And AI Canada-CIFAR Chair At Alberta Artificial Intelligence Institute.
The Edmonton-based startup uses a data-driven AI approach called reinforcement learning (RL) to improve the efficiency and performance of industrial control systems.
The machine learning technique constantly adapts in real time to deliver significantly better operation than control parameters manually set by engineers.
Thanks to research based at the University of Alberta Reinforcement Learning and Artificial Intelligence Lab and led by White and his partner, Adam WhiteRL is currently used to reduce energy consumption in drinking water treatment, and the company plans to eventually expand its AI approach to other applications, such as heating and cooling systems. intelligent cooling.
“The potential applications of this technology are really exciting,” says Adam, an assistant professor in the Faculty of Science. “We envision a scenario where we could connect to control systems across industries, where there is already some level of automation. This could have a huge impact.”
In addition to making these systems more durable and energy efficient, AI can make these systems more autonomous, allowing operators to focus on less routine and more critical maintenance tasks, he adds.
“The more we can do to make something like a water treatment system more self-sustaining, the more likely it is to work well in a remote community, where an operator may only need to visit periodically. “
In addition to expert business development advice and financial support, the networking opportunities provided by the fund will be particularly valuable to RLCore, says Martha.
“Having strong connections to find implementation partners will help us improve and introduce RL in many different sectors.
“We are delighted to be the first company chosen for the Innovation Fund,” she adds. “As graduate and undergraduate students at the University of Alberta, the university has given us a lot over the years and we feel like we are part of the team. It therefore seems natural to embark on this partnership with the university. are going to be really beneficial. »
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