The world is a vastly different place than it was just one year ago. 2020 has been characterized by increased market volatility, uncertainty, and supply chain disruptions. It’s been a tough year in the context of foreign investment attraction, which is expected to fall by more than 40% globally in 2020.
But disruption doesn’t just create barriers for business – it breeds opportunity. Opportunity to pivot, to adapt, and to continue the important work of growing Canada’s and Alberta’s economy. We can emerge from this crisis stronger and more globally competitive. It’s time for all Canadians to shift our mindsets and think globally.
We can be leaders in the world’s evolving economy and the Edmonton Metropolitan Region can be a model for that potential. We have one of the youngest and most educated populations in all of North America and international trade prior to Covid-19, was growing at twice the national average – the strongest in Canada. Canada has what the world needs – plentiful food, a robust manufacturing sector, energy and clean technologies, life sciences, artificial intelligence (AI), and a diverse and talented population to help bring products and solutions to market. Thanks to circumpolar air routes, and a direct line to the Port of Prince Rupert, our northern location is a strategic advantage. As the world expands its reliance on hydrogen as a fuel source, our region is in a stronger position than any other region in North America to become the central hub of this new economic driver. It’s an exciting time to call the Edmonton Metropolitan Region home.
We can compete and drive growth right now by focusing on what the world needs most and where we have competitive advantage
That’s why we’re launching a new regional strategy focused on attracting foreign investment in areas where we know we can win. Here in the Edmonton Metropolitan Region, we are taking charge of our future by examining our competitiveness against the best in the world and identifying immediately investable opportunities that will have significant and long-term economic impact. Every element needed to drive investment into these opportunities exists right now within our region.
Take plant protein – global demand is skyrocketing as consumers look for environmentally friendly and healthy ways to include protein in their diets. This isn’t a short-term trend. By 2022, the global demand for plant-based protein is expected to reach $14.2 billion – and as much as $100 billion by 2030. It’s one of the fastest-growing opportunities worldwide and we’re well positioned to dominate this global industry. We have an abundant supply of plant proteins, an integrated supply chain and more free trade agreements than any other country. Attracting investment into plant processing and plant protein food manufacturing means that we can build the entire supply chain right here.
We also see huge potential to leverage our strengths in the life sciences sector. Currently, the region is home to more than a dozen pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing firms and institutions including Gilead, a huge multinational that continues to invest here by growing their capacity. The Edmonton International Airport is the only one in Canada to have achieved CEIV Pharma certification. This means we have the expertise and capabilities needed to get drugs and vaccines to international markets.
We have some of the brightest minds solving the world’s biggest health challenges. Just last month, Dr. Michael Houghton, of Edmonton’s Li Ka Shing Institute for Virology, was awarded a Nobel Prize for his work on hepatitis C. Or consider our legacy in diabetes research. We’ve been at the forefront of solving this global health challenge for over a century and today, scientists at the Alberta Diabetes Institute are at the cusp of discovering a cure right here in the Edmonton region. When we attract investment into the research that is happening here and commercialize it, we will reap significant and lasting rewards across our economy.
We know that we are at a turning point in the global economy. Early adopters of emerging technologies like automation and AI, are seeing substantial growth, while those unable to shift their business models are struggling for survival. The University of Alberta is ranked 3rd globally in AI research and they’re producing an incredible talent pool. Our region is strategically positioned to be at the leading edge of AI transformation.
Our unique value proposition is at the intersection of traditional and emerging sectors. That’s probably why innovation is so interesting here. We have tech startups spinning out of agriculture, energy, and life sciences, and we have traditional industries driving innovation by partnering with organizations like the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute and our many universities, colleges, and polytechnics to transform their business models. Combining our regional strengths in agriculture, energy, and life sciences with our expertise in emerging technologies like AI and ML creates opportunities unique to our region.
I’m inviting all of us to shift our thinking about what the economy in the Edmonton Metropolitan Region can be. There’s incredible opportunity here – now is the time to unlock it.