Opinion: It’s time to go global
Alberta’s economy has seen its share of change and upheaval in recent times – stagnant growth, a contracting energy sector, low commodity prices, market access challenges, and investor uncertainty. Much of this change has been the result of a broader transformation in the global economy, where forces such as the rise of populism, automation, digitization, and the threat of climate change are ushering in a new era of economic disruption.
But in disruption, there is also opportunity. Three global trends in particular present a unique opportunity for Alberta and, indeed, all of Canada to use innovation to its advantage.
The first is the rapid rise of middle-class growth in emerging markets, driving unprecedented demand for manufactured goods, energy and food. It is estimated that we as a global community will need to produce as much food in the next 45 years as we have had to in the previous 10,000. There is no way we can meet that demand without innovating.
The second key trend relates to an aging global population. By 2050, nearly a quarter of the world’s population will be over the age of 60, rising to nearly 3 billion by the end of the century. Combine this with the increasing rates of chronic disease and it is almost a certainty that there will be new pressures, fiscal and otherwise, on our health care system in the not-too-distant future. Industry is recognizing this, with the health technology market already seeing an astounding 45% compound annual growth rate globally, which will only continue to accelerate.
Finally, the power of disruptive technologies – artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotics – is creating new economic opportunities in traditional sectors by increasing productivity and, in turn, driving increased profits and GDP growth. In the manufacturing sector alone, it is expected that Internet of Things applications will generate $1.2 – $3.7 trillion of global economic value by 2025. These technologies are not going anywhere and will only continue to grow in their demand.
The Edmonton Metropolitan Region is uniquely well-positioned to capitalize on these new demands and opportunities driven by these global trends. Over the past few years, perhaps to the surprise of some outside the province, the region has begun to house some of the most innovative advanced technology companies in the world – everything from artificial intelligence and machine learning, to robotics, to companies in the clean tech, health tech and agri-tech spaces. Our compelling global value proposition is the combination of our core sector strengths – energy, manufacturing, health, and food and agriculture – and their technology-driven transformations.
But competition remains fierce and, in the global race for investment, our region, province, and country are being outpaced by lesser competitors. Why? Because we are mired in 20th century thinking, policies and institutions trying to compete in a 21st century, technology-driven economy. The world has been changing, but we have not been changing with it, or at least not as quickly as is required. Governments must be open to new thinking and new ways of doing things. We cannot afford complacency in this new economic era.
In light of this, 15 municipalities in the Edmonton Region united around a common goal: to attract more global investment to our region and to help local companies go global. As a result of this ambition, Edmonton Global was created.
Edmonton Global – the first-ever regional economic development corporation dedicated to the region – works to create local, regional, provincial, national, and global partnerships, collaborating with all levels of government, academia, industry and local economic development agencies to radically transform and grow the economy of the Edmonton Metropolitan Region by making it the choice location for investment and increasing our global competitiveness.
To assist the work being done by provincial and federal governments to chart a path to future prosperity, Edmonton Global created Going Global: A Guide to Competing in a Globalized Economy. On March 10th, the organization, alongside partners from the Edmonton International Airport, Alberta’s Industrial Heartland Association and Innovate Edmonton, will be in Ottawa and will be bringing a message of optimism, opportunity and partnership to the federal government as we collectively seek to increase our global competitiveness and drive economic growth.
The Edmonton Region representatives visiting Ottawa include businesses, business associations and other economic development partners from agri-tech, value-added energy, commercial real estate, life sciences and pharmaceutical innovation, logistics, cannabis, screen media and more. The group will be encouraging the federal government to take action in four key areas outlined in Going Global:
1. Adopting a global mindset across government. Including measuring our competitiveness in relation to global peers, using data-driven decision-making and taking a coordinated approach to international investment attraction.
2. Creating an enabling environment. This includes growth-enabling regulation, taxation and infrastructure (including digital infrastructure). If we are not competative in these three areas, we simply will not be in the game.
3. Investing in a globally competitive talent pool. Talent is a key driver of the new economy, we need to attract and retain more foreign talent, empower Indigenous Peoples, and focus on skills for the modern economy.
4. Fostering world-class innovation. By accelerating commercialization and adoption of advanced technologies and integrating innovators with the global supply chain.
At its core, the Edmonton Region delegation’s message in Ottawa will be simple: there is global opportunity that we are uniquely positioned to capitalize on – let’s work together to Go Global!