University of Calgary
Linking a research and innovation strategy for the University of Calgary to broader, transformative economic impacts
In 2017, the University of Calgary’s tech transfer and commercialization arm engaged U3 Advisors to develop a vision and strategy for transforming the campus-adjacent University Research Park (URP) into a dynamic, strategically-planned and -operated innovation district. The University enjoys a strong foundation of research excellence, and has undertaken ambitious efforts over the past decade to enhance its standing as a top-tier global research institution. In order to continue that momentum, it recognized a need to catalyze a more robust innovation ecosystem that would align efforts between the University and corporate, nonprofit, and governmental partners.
The University Research Park’s location directly adjacent to the University’s Main Campus, along with easy access to the city’s central business district, made it uniquely positioned to fuse its resources with those of the broader economy. With almost 80 acres of largely undeveloped or underbuilt land, the Park also offered an enormous opportunity to develop new types of spaces at the scale needed to foster an innovation ecosystem. These spaces range, for example, from purpose-built prototyping labs to flexible university and industry co-location offices. By better aligning the research park with the University’s vision and mission, our team saw the potential to advance the University’s research efforts as well as strengthen Calgary’s economy and the University’s physical connection to the City.
U3 led an intensive visioning and strategy process, during which we helped articulate a narrative that frames the synergies between the University, URP, and the broader City and Province’s economy, and identifies courses of action that can be taken to strengthen these synergies. Rooting the framework in innovation district best practices, U3 identified how densification and strategic management of the research park could advance these alignment efforts. We highlighted the key role of placemaking efforts in successful district planning, factoring in planning for transit accessibility, housing options, and thriving retail and community facilities. Finally, our team considered governance and implementation requirements of a successful innovation district, to ensure sustained leadership of the programmatic vision and alignment across stakeholders.
In a subsequent phase of work, U3 also delivered an employment and economic impact analysis report, quantifying the catalytic opportunity for the innovation district to diversity Calgary’s economy and create more than 6,000 direct and 12,000 indirect jobs. The Innovation District Vision & Strategy serves as the basis for the University to advance its innovation platform and economic development footprint.