The local impact from deep funding cuts at the provincially-funded Alberta Innovates remains somewhat uncertain.
Alberta Innovates, which invests in research, innovation and entrepreneurship, saw its annual budget slashed to $202 million from $278 million due to government budget cuts.
Up to 125 union and non-union positions will be cut from its 670-member work force employed mostly in Edmonton, Calgary, Devon, Vegreville and Victoria, B.C.
But the Alberta Innovates technology development advisor, based at Red Deer College’s Centre of Innovation in Manufacturing, will remain on the job to work with small or medium sized, technology or knowledge-based enterprises in central Alberta.
Alicia Cafferata-Arnett, co-chair of the Central Alberta Regional Innovation Network that receives funding from Alberta Innovates, said technology development advisors are important.
“To me the workhorse of Alberta Innovates is really the technology development advisors. Losing ours would strongly impact our region,” Cafferata-Arnett said.
She did not know when more would be known about changes happening at Alberta Innovates.
In a statement, Alberta Innovates said: “The realities of this budget require us to innovate how we operate and structure our organization to deliver outcomes. We are acting quickly to align strategies with the priorities of this government and a smaller budget.”
A statement from the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism said: “We believe in the good work that Alberta Innovates does on behalf of Albertans, and they will continue to contribute to our province’s research and innovation ecosystem. Innovates will be aligning strategies with the government to ensure strong partnerships with the private sector and post-secondary institutions.”
Reg Warkentin, policy and advocacy manager at Red Deer & District Chamber of Commerce, said Alberta Innovates has seen changes as different parties took power in the last five years.
He said the UCP is focusing on competitiveness as a whole instead of trying to foster specific types of businesses.
“That’s why we’re seeing the movement away from some of these more particular programs to just lower taxes, fewer regulations, the open-for-business-type attitude,” Warkentin said.
He said the Red Deer area is fortunate to have an economic development community that works closely together.
“There’s a big misunderstanding when it comes to innovation. It’s not always the completely new business idea or business project. It’s simply finding a better, more efficient way of doing things you’re already doing.”