Calgary airport, airline, investment community combine to boost aerospace innovation hub

Passengers walk at Calgary International Airport in Calgary, Alta., Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

The Aerospace Innovation Hub in Calgary hopes to reach new heights thanks to an investment in funds and partnerships with industry companies.

With $3.9 million in seed funding, the Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund (OCIF) is teaming up with Innovate Calgary, the Calgary Airport Authority, Westjet and Ventures to create a space for people in the aerospace industry to prove their tech in real-world settings.

OCIF CEO and Calgary Economic Development president Brad Parry said it’s part of the push to have a larger aerospace industry in the city.

“This just goes to help us build that flywheel for us, to bring companies in to try new technologies, invest in those technologies that have real world solutions happening right here,” Parry said.

In the next four years, the hub is expected to support up to 180 companies with incubator programming and create 150 new indirect jobs. The hub will also directly fund six companies in an accelerator program.

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Calgary’s mayor said Monday’s announcement builds on the city’s reputation as an aviation hub.

“This is an example of why creating the right conditions for innovation and business is so important,” Jyoti Gondek said. “It’s through investments like these who are providing new ways for creators and problem solvers to try something new, to possibly fail, and to start all over again and get it right and end up changing the world from right here in Calgary.”

OCIF, a city-owned subsidiary, said the hub is expected to create $1.5 million in research and development, and up to 40 patents.

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The airport authority will be providing physical space for the hub to operate in, as well as opportunities to test within real-world airport scenarios.

Calgary-based Westjet will provide a testing bed for airline-related scenarios.

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The airline’s chief digital officer expected the hub to drive innovation in western Canada’s aviation ecosystem and have a “powerful impact” on Westjet customers.

“Having the AIH (Aerospace Innovation Hub) anchored at YYC, we are creating a ‘living lab’ together with our partners that will unlock new opportunities and attract talent to our province, our hometown city and our airline,” Christian Novosel said.

And Ventures will help companies working out of the hub to access capital and investment supports to create and scale their work.

“Calgary’s unique industrial, deep technologies and research ecosystem will help the Aerospace hub to establish itself as one of the prominent players in the global aerospace ecosystem,” said Neeraj Gupta, co-founder of Ventures.

The new hub funding and connected companies builds on the initial $2.5 million from PrairiesCan announced in June 2023.

The Aerospace Innovation Hub joins the University of Calgary’s network of four themed innovation hubs managed by Innovate Calgary, which also include the Life Sciences Innovation Hub, the Energy Transition Centre and the Social Innovation Hub.

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