We know Alberta as the country’s economic powerhouse, owing to our province’s well-known capabilities in the energy and agricultural sectors, among many others. But why limit ourselves to just a couple areas of economic strength? Alberta has more to give.
What may surprise you is Alberta’s existing and emerging strengths in the health sector.
Expertise in healthcare delivery and health innovation will be increasingly important in the decades ahead. One of the many great challenges the world will face is the realities of a rapidly aging population. Globally, life expectancy has increased by more than six years since 2000. But unfortunately, increases in healthy life expectancy – the number of years spent in good health – have not kept pace.
A greater proportion of older adults means an increasing incidence and severity of chronic conditions. By 2030, at least half of the Baby Boomer generation is expected to be managing a chronic condition, leading to double the hospital and doctor visits, and placing significant strain on healthcare systems.
This is where Alberta comes in. This province has tremendous assets and strengths that can be harnessed to contribute solutions to this global challenge.
We are home to several focused research institutes, including the Li Ka Shing Institute of Virology at the University of Alberta, the Hotchkiss Brain Institute at the University of Calgary, and the soon-to-open Calgary Cancer Centre.
We have well-established innovation enablers like Alberta Innovates, Health Cities, and the Health Innovation Hub that help entrepreneurs develop and commercialize their health innovations.
Speaking of entrepreneurs, we have more than 250 life sciences companies in the province. A quarter of these companies were established in the last three years, showcasing the increased demand for health solutions and Alberta’s conducive innovation environment. We saw significant growth in start-up companies for medical technology and devices, health biotechnology and pharma, and health IT. And two-thirds of these companies expect to transition to the growth phase this year.
Alberta’s opportunity is in commercializing new research and emerging health technology solutions. Not only will this drive economic growth as we build and export innovations, but it will also contribute to better health outcomes, both for Albertans and for those all over the world. We can help solve the global health challenge, and grow a large and diverse health sector in Alberta.
If the health sector is to be Alberta’s next economic powerhouse and globally recognized hub of health care solutions, we need to shift into high gear, get businesses and governments working more together, and ensure innovators are drawn to and can succeed in Alberta.