Beyond funding, innovators face additional challenges that hinder technology advancement and adoption by industry. Public funding is often not enough to accelerate these new technologies through to commercialization. ERA works with government and industry to help address gaps, which often includes convening additional partners and resources. The innovation system in Canada and Alberta is complex, yet rich in resources and capacity. ERA is uniquely positioned to leverage and convene capacity in the system to foster the commercialization of innovative technologies, over and above the funding and technical expertise ERA brings to the table.
In 2018/19, ERA assembled an external advisory team to help develop the detailed plan for the Innovator Support Pilot (ISP). The initiative targets projects who have gone through ERA’s application process and who’s proposals showed technological promise, but did not qualify for ERA funding due to specific challenges or barriers. The program is meant to prepare previous applicants for future funding opportunities with ERA or other partner organizations. Starting in June 2018, reviewers from ERA’s technical team and Alberta Innovates’ Clean Technology group were tasked with building a shortlist of projects that would form a trial of the ISP process. Concurrently, the ISP process was developed and finalized. By end of 2019, this process was complete and in early 2020 culminated in informal outreach discussion with shortlisted projects to gauge participation interest and understand, at a high level, future opportunities for company growth and success.
The ISP officially launched in May 2020, onboarding five companies into the program and connecting them with service providers who will help strengthen elements critical to business success such as organizational strategy and governance, technology and commercial readiness strategy, financial plan, and marketing and customer attraction. Expertise in these areas is drawn from a service provider committee comprising Alberta Innovates, TEC Edmonton, Platform Calgary, Zone Startups Calgary, and Foresight Cleantech Accelerator, each of whom evaluated the onboarded companies and provided feedback to ERA. ERA internally matched these companies with a suitable service provider based on their needs. Moving forward, the first cohort of companies will work with their service providers on strengthening and growing different aspects of their business. The ISP is set to conclude by end of May 2021.