It’s dynamic, transformational and exciting. Although there is consensus that the direct and indirect business of the energy sector will be a vital driver of the Calgary economy for generations, Calgary’s business prism is diversifying from the conventional stereotype of being “the oil capital of Canada” to the “new Calgary” as a global innovation hub.
It makes being in the right place at the right time an exhilarating and limitless challenge and opportunity for Dr. Terry Rock.
Last month, Rock – who is a passionate booster of “the new Calgary” with extensive entrepreneurial and strategic business leadership experience – became president and CEO of Calgary Technologies Inc. (CTI), the respected, Calgary-based organization whose mandate is to accelerate the impact of innovation-driven ventures by providing access to space, programs, mentorship and funding.
His enthusiasm and drive is a perfect fit for what many suggest is the Calgary recovery, transformation and new business focus: diversification. “I think there is an exciting story waiting to be told about a city that is a global player in one industry leveraging its strength into other areas as that industry matured,” he says. “We are fortunate to have been diversifying our economy all along.
“It’s also true that our reputation lags the reality many people experience on the ground. We have to do more to tell the story of innovation that’s already happening in Calgary, while at the same time doing the hard work necessary to take it to the next level.”
It is well known that CTI has been consistently committed to establishing Calgary as a global innovation hub. And as exciting as the limitless possibilities are, Rock explains it’s not instant; it is a process.
“We already have one key: we are an established player in an industry with global significance and reach. We attract people from around the world to our city to work in that industry, and many of them are here to solve the tough challenges that industry faces. We can leverage those networks.
“From here, it will take the right civic mindset and belief in our potential, alignment of efforts, talent, investment and physical spaces/urban design to promote cross-pollination.
“We have all the raw materials to move on the innovation agenda, much faster than people expect,” he points out. “We are already a global hub in one industry. We are well known for our entrepreneurial attitude, and we’ve already seen several initiatives come quickly together to build up essential elements of the innovation ecosystem, in spaces and investment.
“We have advantages in youth, wealth, education levels and affordability. We have an abundance of social capital due to our high level of volunteerism, driven by our culture scene, including the Calgary Stampede. Most of all, we have a level of civic pride that I can see forming up behind this agenda.
“When Calgarians get behind something, they’re all in. That moment is coming for our innovation ecosystem.”