Nov. 12, 2020

Biomedical engineering has a “major” role in Calgary’s economic future

Schulich School of Engineering announces a new major in Biomedical Engineering to meet high demand for these skills in Calgary’s growing life-sciences sector

How fast is Calgary’s life sciences sector growing? Fast enough that a major in Biomedical Engineering is launching to provide the unique skills companies need.

Recruiting for next fall now, the major in Biomedical Engineering is an essential part of the University of Calgary’s contribution to the life sciences ecosystem of support, research and development and skilled employees.

Biotech sector growth means higher demand for BME graduates

According to a 2019 BioAlberta report, the number of life sciences companies in the province has nearly doubled in the last five years. The report identifies over 300 companies working in this sector, 45 per cent of which have launched since 2015.

Over a third of Alberta’s life sciences companies are based in Calgary.

“The digital health and medical device areas in particular make up 50 per cent of the 110 life sciences companies in Calgary,” says Niall Kerrigan, business development manager, Life Sciences, Calgary Economic Development. “We’ve identified this as a key emerging sector to Calgary’s success in the new economy.”

Kerrigan, who is approached on a weekly basis by new life sciences spinoff companies or out-of-town start-ups, says the decision businesses are making to locate here is largely influenced by the local talent pipeline and research capabilities.

“Biomedical engineering research, innovation and education at the University of Calgary play a major part in the local life sciences ecosystem,” says dean of the Schulich School of Engineering, Dr. Bill Rosehart, PhD. “At Schulich, our programs are highly connected to the needs of the engineering companies that are looking to hire our graduates.”

Launching a new biomedical engineering major

For over 10 years, Schulich has offered a Specialization (now a Minor) in Biomedical Engineering, and interest has been exponential.

“We created the major in Biomedical Engineering to meet not only a growing demand from industry for students with these multi-disciplinary skills, but also to keep up with student interest in the program,” says Dr. Elena Di Martino, PhD, director of Schulich’s Centre for Biomedical Research and Education, which will administer the new major. “There is an opportunity in Calgary to grow the emerging health technology sector and this program will educate leaders in the field.”

Part of a bigger plan

Engineering Solutions for Health: Biomedical Engineering is one of six main research themes the University of Calgary has prioritized since the launch of its 2012 strategic research plan. According to Dr. Michael Kallos, director of the university’s BME Calgary Initiative, there are over 300 researchers across the faculties of engineering, nursing, veterinary medicine, medicine and kinesiology working to develop solutions for health.   

“The transdisciplinary nature of biomedical research and education brings about the most creative engineering solutions imaginable,” says Kallos. “We’re advancing by leaps and bounds in this area, and excited to be a part of creating the talent pool to sustain that progress.”