Calgary has taken the title of most innovative city in Canada, beating out Waterloo and Ottawa for most patents filed per resident.
Calgary’s newfound spot in innovation likely seems surprising, as there hasn’t been a buzz around any particular innovations in the city. Calgary’s rise to the top is the result of an accumulation of innovations in Alberta’s oil sands, such as those to access oil at a lower cost and to reduce emissions.
Calgary surpasses Waterloo and Ottawa, which both held the top spot for years due to their technological ingenuity. In the late 1990’s, Ottawa had the most patents per resident, with Canadian telecommunications company Nortel at the forefront of Canadian innovation. After the fall of Nortel, Waterloo company, Research in Motion, took its place as Canada’s greatest innovator with the invention of the Blackberry. However, similarly to Nortel, Blackberry’s popularity quickly declined with the rise of new phone makers such as Apple. As Waterloo and Ottawa’s innovation rate steadily declined, Calgary’s inventors maintained and even increased their rate of innovation – submitting for patents at three times the rate of the rest of country – allowing the Albertan city to surpass the other two in 2015.
But what is the cause of Calgary’s rise in innovation? Beginning in the mid-2000’s, patents filed under the category of “rock drilling” skyrocketed. A report by the C.D. Howe Institute documents that between 1997 and mid-2005, rock drill patent applications remained hovering around forty patents per year. In the second half of 2005, patents doubled, and remained at a steady increase until 2014 at 160 patents.
One notable difference between the rise in innovation in Calgary in comparison to Waterloo and Ottawa is that many projects require the cooperation of multiple oil sand producers. This in turn increases productivity and success in the innovations in Calgary and its surrounding areas. This cooperation, in tangent with Calgary’s steadfast desire to advance the oil sand industry while making it more sustainable, has allowed for Calgary’s success in innovation and its earning of the top spot in Canada.