The launch of a new program aimed at enhancing opportunities for Edmonton-area technology firms in China was celebrated by business leaders and politicians on Monday as yet another sign of Alberta’s capital becoming a major player on the global tech landscape.
On Monday, TEC Edmonton and TusStar announced a new six-month program, with residency in both countries, that will provide training and support in areas including language, intellectual property policy, regulatory issues and business etiquette for Edmonton-area firms looking to access the Chinese market and for Chinese firms looking to expand in Alberta.
“As Edmontonians, we’re still grappling with the fact that this city is one of the leading places in the world and our university’s one of the leading institutions in the world when it comes to artificial intelligence, which is going to disrupt so many different sectors in the coming years and decades,” Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson said.
“So it was part of what attracted TusStar and Tsinghua University to want to work with us.”
The program is the first one to be unveiled from TusStar’s Alberta branch. It allows technology-based companies and entrepreneurs to apply.
TEC Edmonton is a joint venture between the University of Alberta and Edmonton Economic Development Corporation that calls itself the “Edmonton region’s largest accelerator for early-stage technology companies” and manages the commercialization of the university’s technology.
Owned by Tsinghua University, TusStar bills itself as one of China’s most successful tech incubators and currently manages assets worth over $70 billion.
“Globalization is an important development drive for both companies and countries,” Jinsheng Zhang, the chairman of TusStar, said in a news release. “TusStar Alberta plays a key role in connecting the Canadian and Chinese markets.
“It’s because there are many excellent innovative startups and enthusiastic entrepreneurs in Canada, we are looking forward to working with our strong partner, TEC Edmonton, to support these great companies.”
The CEO of TEC Edmonton said it’s key for Alberta tech companies to be able to “go global.”
“As with entering any new market, there are challenges,” Chris Lumb said in a news release. “This program will make it easier for companies entering into China by breaking down cultural barriers which can hinder companies’ success.”
Edmonton’s reputation in the tech world has been on the rise of late. Last year, the artificial intelligence (AI) firm DeepMind — acquired by Google in 2014 and now part of the Alphabet group — announced it was opening a research office in Alberta’s capital.
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In March 2017, the federal government announced the University of Alberta would be one of the institutions to benefit from a $125-million investment into its pan-Canadian AI strategy to enhance research and recruit talent.
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“I’m always amazed when I go to China at the scale of things, so a partnership like this with Tsinghua University, which is the foremost technical university in China, and this partnership with TusStar… this is a huge partnership for Edmonton,” Iveson said on Monday. “They want to work with us because of what we do here to support entrepreneurs and what we do in artificial intelligence in particular.
“[It] opens up opportunities for trade, opportunities for investment, opportunities for joint research and as we think — as Canadians — about how to diversify our trade relationships around the world, because we may be a little closely connected to one that isn’t working out so well for us, these are platforms for that future outlooking global export-based growth that we need.”
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