One of the aspects of Alberta that unites people of all political backgrounds and stripes is the belief that it’s a place where big things can happen — and where anything is possible if we work hard enough. That’s the story of our oil sands industry, which overcame major technological and economic challenges to become a leading source of supply for the global economy. And it’s a story that has to be applied to new challenges and industries if Alberta is going to thrive in the 21st century.
Enter the “A Prize”, an idea originally put forward in a Calgary Herald op-ed in early 2020 by Business Council of Alberta president Adam Legge. The A prize would be a competition that sees Alberta companies, institutions and governments put their grand challenges out to the world to solve, and find ways to get them to solve them in Alberta. Alberta’s history with COSIA’s Carbon XPrize and Emissions Reduction Alberta’s grand challenges are examples that Alberta can build upon. Challenges such as net-zero energy, bitumen beyond combustion, plant-based protein, and innovation in healthcare are all potential focus areas for the A Prize.
As Legge noted, “incentive prizes often result in multiple company formations, large investments, and scale-ups of research and development.” The prize can be designed to provide incentive for the winners to be encouraged to put down roots in Alberta’s economy, or deepen the ones they already have. The A Prize will also signal Alberta’s intention to play a leading role in the knowledge economy, and attract people and sources of capital that want to do the same. And as each prize cycle runs its course, an entire ecosystem of innovation and risk-taking will be cultivated and harvested.