Over the 2018-19 academic year, Alberta institutions received more than $1 billion in sponsored research revenue, with a little more than half of that coming from the provincial and federal governments.
Alberta is also home to many specialized colleges and trade schools, preparing students for the world of work and welcoming newcomers to this country who have applied skills, but may need Canadian certifications and language education. Alberta educators have embraced the model of life-long learning, understanding that school doesn’t end when the degree is handed out. To embrace a high-tech, innovative future, educational institutions play major roles in supporting researchers and providing the skilled workers of tomorrow.
The Alberta government has made key changes to the Post-Secondary Learning Act to support a transformational plan for the Alberta education system that will ensure a skilled workforce well into the future.
The Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT), located in Edmonton, focuses on delivering polytechnic education and research with an international reach. The University of Alberta, also located in Alberta’s capital, is ranked in the top five of Canadian universities and in the top 150 globally. Calgary also boasts a top research-intensive institution at the University of Calgary.
In the southern Alberta City of Lethbridge, located just two hours north of the American border, is the University of Lethbridge, another of Alberta’s highly ranked research institutions. And the Integrated Agriculture Technology Centre (IATC), which connects technology and research expertise, is located in the same city at Lethbridge College.
Innovation, research, higher learning, leadership: Alberta.
64.9 PER CENT
of workers in Alberta have completed post-secondary education
Median age of Albertans, making it the youngest province in Canada
Number of registered apprentices being trained in Alberta
Sponsored research revenue attracted by Alberta’s academic and research universities in 2019–2020
Number of innovations created with support from Alberta Innovates, the province’s largest research and innovation agency, in 2020–2021
Source: Government of Alberta
Imagine the smart farm of the future. It’s a place where technology helps farmers better predict weather, control water use and monitor threats to their crops.
In summer 2021, Olds College — a post-secondary institution in central Alberta focused on all aspects of the agriculture industry — announced the launch of the Pan-Canadian Smart Farm Network. This project includes the Glacier FarmMedia Discovery Farm in Langham, Saskatchewan and the Lakeland College Student-Managed Farm, located 190 kilometres east of Edmonton near the town of Vermilion — Powered by American agricultural machinery manufacturer, New Holland.
Soil, crop and climate conditions will be measured at these farms, and the data is shared with Olds College.
“Smart farms validate and demonstrate the use of innovative agricultural technology in a specific environment, and they provide opportunities to train students enrolled in post-secondary agriculture programs on the latest trends in ag-tech,” said Kerry Wright, CEO of the Canadian Agri-Food Automation and Intelligence Network, which helped fund the Olds College project.
Canmore Coldwater Laboratory
Canmore is located in the Canadian Rockies, just outside the gates of Banff National Park. And it’s the perfect place to conduct research on the effects climate change is having on the water supply.
The city is home to the University of Saskatchewan’s Coldwater Laboratory, where more than 20 climate and water researchers from around the world study how water interacts with the environment. They survey the snow-melt, measure how trees use water and monitor the water coming off of glaciers.
The work of these researchers is part of Global Water Futures, a $143-million program that researches water resources in “cold- weather” countries such as Canada — places that have long winters — and how global warming will impact things like annual snow-melt and ecosystems.
“This [research] will allow us to nurture, incubate and accelerate science and technology innovation into commercial success, creating innovative technology products and global market-driven companies that will significantly contribute to the economic development, diversification and resilience of our Canmore, Alberta and Western Canadian economies,” said Innovate Canmore President and CEO Brian McClure.
Contamination of surface water and ground-water is a critical problem in agriculture and urban areas. That’s because feedlot wastewater is particularly prone to contamination from substances like organic matter, nutrients and heavy metals.In its latest research project, Olds College in southern Alberta is evaluating the economic and environmental benefits of using native wetland plants and floating island technology to treat feedlot runoff water, removing contaminants to improve water quality and minimize algae blooms to meet irrigation and livestock drinking water standards.
“In operations that have negative impacts on water quality, we desperately need solutions that are economical and easily adopted,” says Dr. Daniel Karran, the study’s principal investigator.
The researchers hope their project will offer livestock producers a sustainable method of water remediation to help them lead the way as environmental stewards.
Producing Essential Products
Alberta is working towards independent production of vaccines and other pharmaceuticals by investing in the Applied Virology Institute (AVI) at the University of Alberta’s (U of A) Li Ka-Shing Centre of Health Research Innovation. Located in Edmonton at one of the top five universities in Canada, the AVI will receive $20 million to upgrade laboratory capacity, including the construction of a facility to house a cutting-edge cryogenic electron microscope.
This funding, in addition to more than $30 million the Government of Alberta has already recently invested in the AVI, reflects the importance of the Institute’s work. As Alberta Premier Jason Kenney observes, the U of A is “where today’s breakthroughs will be turned into tomorrow’s cures.”