Investment group

The investment group plays a key role in reviewing funding requests

Each year, Alberta Innovates receives hundreds of applications from companies presenting their technology ideas for funding. It is crucial to make the right investment decision for each application. Millions of taxpayer dollars are at stake, not to mention the government funding agency’s reputation as the province’s largest investor in research and innovation (Alberta Innovates typically invests over $150 million). dollars per year in various research, innovation and commercialization initiatives).

Working behind the scenes to help Alberta Innovates make the right decisions on every application is a dedicated investment services team.

“When a company applies to Alberta Innovates, we are a critical group that reviews applications and makes sure we do our due diligence on potential investments,” says Deryl Williams, team manager (pictured left ). “As an agency, our fiduciary responsibility to Albertans is to manage their money for investment purposes, following industry standard rigor and best practices. It’s something we take very seriously.

Williams says that in 2021 the Investment Services team reviewed more than 500 funding applications for a wide variety of projects in the energy, environment, healthcare, agriculture and others.

In each case, Williams and its three main investment business partners – Helette Conradie, Luigi Simpatico and Torunn Landsgaard – undertake a detailed investigation that helps determine whether or not the applicant’s proposal wins funding.

First, they look at the company’s technology. Using market intelligence and technology reports, they assess its potential: Will the technology add value to Alberta? How well is it supported by research? What is the state of the market?

At the same time, they take a close look at the company’s business fundamentals.

“We want to understand what makes a business attractive. This may be the company’s product offering, the quality of its management team, its strategic positioning, but it also includes the assessment of financial viability and the strength of insulating factors such as intellectual property protections. (IP). We also look at the competitive environment in which a business operates as well as market opportunities,” says Conradie (pictured right).

A photo of Helette Conradie

Most importantly, they will assess the application against Alberta Innovates’ strategic objectives, including the ability of the investment to generate jobs and economic growth in the province.

“We will verify that a potential investment complies with Alberta Innovates protocols so that Albertans can see their taxpayers’ money make a difference,” Landsgaard says.

Finally, they look for possible “abnormalities” or red flags: are all the facts of the application aligned? Is the company what it says? Does the company have a physical presence in Alberta? If things don’t look right, the team will dig deeper. This could involve following up to ask applicants for more information or further investigation. While most applications verify, the team sometimes discovers falsified information or fraudulent activity.

A photo of Luigi Simpatico

“Detective work is a big part of our business. We want to make sure there is nothing in the application that could harm the reputation of Alberta Innovates or jeopardize the effective management of taxpayers’ money,” says Simpatico (pictured left).

Once their investigation is complete, they send the application along with their recommendations to senior management, who will make the final decision on the investment.

It is a rigorous process, to which the group brings considerable commercial experience.

Williams, who is a former oilfield CEO and formerly director of Alberta Innovates’ global partnerships group, has decades of national and international business development experience. Simpatico is a senior investment analyst with a background in technology commercialization; Conradie holds an MBA from Ivey Business School and has served as a strategic analyst for major corporations such as Enbridge and SNC-Lavalin; while Landsgaard has worked as a digital innovation strategy consultant and senior research analyst for a number of European market intelligence companies.

In addition to these references, each member of the group shares an innate curiosity for new technologies.

That’s fitting, given the ever-changing composition of files that cross their desks. On any day, for example, this could include a business proposal for new drone technology, or innovative digital software for the resource sector, or a potentially revolutionary technique for detecting cancer. To track this topic, group members study the research literature, meet daily to share review results, or consult with experts inside and outside of Alberta Innovates.

“It’s like going to school. We are constantly learning about different industries and technologies,” says Landsgaard (pictured right).

A photo of Torunn Landsgaard

According to the group, this is the kind of work that is deeply satisfying, not only because of the constant learning and exposure to new technologies, but also because of the opportunity to make a difference in Alberta.

“In our jobs, we see the real impact that Alberta Innovates has as an innovation partner in this province. We have tremendous respect for entrepreneurs, and there’s nothing better than seeing the companies we’ve funded excel and grow,” says Conradie.