EDGI maps Edmonton's innovation ecosystem

· The Pulse

Edmonton Unlimited has created a visual database of the Edmonton region's innovation ecosystem to help expand the understanding of what innovation is and inform future decisions.

Edmonton's Greatest Innovations (EDGI) visualizes the geographic presence of more than 2,000 innovative entities across 14 filterable categories. It first launched in 2021 and relaunched in an expanded format in January of this year.

Edmonton Unlimited compiled the listings from sources such as the Learn How database from Alberta Innovates and the Alberta-wide ecosystem portal from Start Alberta, as well as records submitted directly by users. Organizations that are already in the database are encouraged to claim and update their profiles, so they can learn about opportunities such as the soon-to-launch Capital City Pilots.

What's in EDGI now is just a start, said Erin Gobolos, vice-president of marketing and community relations for Edmonton Unlimited.

"Our vision for this platform is kind of further and well beyond where it is right now," she told Taproot. "When we think about an ecosystem, the innovators and innovations are one really important layer. But there's also service providers. There's media, there's investment, there's government, there's funding, there's programs … our next intent is to truly map out that visual ecosystem that includes all of that."

The EDGI map could help steer future decision-making once it is further populated, Gobolos said. "It could be on things like new programming. It could be about new markets that we maybe haven't tapped into but we see global opportunities (for)."

EDGI, which was created in partnership with Toronto-based Urban Living Futures (UPPlift), cost between $75,000 and $77,000, which covered licensing and data entry. It was funded in part by a grant from the Edmonton Regional Innovation Network.

Screen grab of the EDGI map showing a menu, bubbles indicating listings, and a map of Edmonton

The EDGI map includes more than 2,000 innovators spread across 14 filterable categories. (Edmonton Unlimited)

The term "innovators" applies to organizations far beyond tech companies, Gobolos added. That's why the EDGI map went beyond existing databases to include listings of non-tech companies in sectors such as hospitality, social enterprise, and media, to name just a few.

"We kind of speak about innovation as being 'tech plus.' So absolutely, innovation is tech, but we know innovation can happen in any industry or sector. There could be social innovation, there could be cultural innovation, arts innovation, Indigenous innovation," she said.

"Innovation and solutions are often multidisciplinary," she continued. "So that's really important that we're having that really broad lens and bringing all of those people together to create innovations to solve some of the greatest challenges our world is facing today."

There are parameters on what can be included. "We see innovation as something that's kind of net-new, that is contributing to some sort of significant positive change," Gobolos said.

"Everybody that's included on here has identified (themselves) as some sort of innovator," she said. But each registrant is screened by Edmonton Unlimited and not all are approved. For example, companies that have a presence here but don't do their innovation work here — think Amazon's fulfillment centre versus its research-and-development arm — are not eligible for inclusion.

As it continues to build out EDGI, Edmonton Unlimited is getting ready to launch some new programming this spring and move into its new space at Jasper Avenue and 101 Street in April.