March 15, 2021

United Way donation plants seeds for social impact

$2.5M donation helps establish new fund

Thanks to a $2.5-million donation by United Way of Calgary and Area, UCalgary’s UCeed program continues to grow — as does its impact on the community.

The new UCeed Social Impact Fund, for which this donation is the lead investment, is a unique partnership in social finance that supports a growing family of organizations focused on making positive changes in our communities. The donation from United Way will be spread out over five years.

“Social innovation offers tremendous potential to improve quality of life with collaborations that renew existing processes and address social needs through new products, services, policies and programs,” says UCalgary President Ed McCauley. “The UCeed Social Impact Fund will spark more innovation and help commercialize new technologies by providing much-needed funding to startup companies promoting social impact. We thank the United Way for igniting our ability to foster transformative ideas and together, make the University of Calgary a hub for social innovation.”

New thinking is required to solve pressing and complex social challenges, says Karen Young, president and CEO of United Way of Calgary and Area.

“We know that change doesn’t happen by doing things the same way,” she says. “The UCeed Social Impact Fund will enable people in the community to take leaps, make mistakes and revolutionize systems, bringing about new solutions to the often-unseen problems that people in Calgary face every day.

“Our team is thrilled to work with UCalgary on this exciting new initiative that supports our work to create lasting social change.”

The new fund will help accelerate early stage social enterprises and invest in those that are ready to tackle societal challenges, deliver value to the community and foster economic growth.

UCeed is a key program in UCalgary’s innovation ecosystem and supports robust startups by bridging the gap between innovation, demonstration and commercialization. The philanthropy-supported program is managed by Innovate Calgary, the university’s knowledge-transfer and business incubator.

Fourth fund in less than a year under UCeed

The Social Impact Fund is the fourth fund established in less than a year under UCeed, which began with two funds focused on general and child health. Last fall, the UCeed Haskayne Student Fund was established — one of the first university-based private equity funds in Western Canada managed by and for students.

“Launched in June 2020, UCeed has evaluated more than 150 innovative ideas and is pursuing funding of 18 unique opportunities. We’re seeing an increasing number of entrepreneurs in our community intentionally create social impact through their business,” says Jordana Armstrong, associate director, Social and Clinical Innovation, with Innovate Calgary. “The UCeed Social Impact fund will address a critical need to support early stage social entrepreneurs and social innovators.”

Past examples of social innovation at UCalgary include the Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking, the Trico Foundation Social Entrepreneurship Centre at the Haskayne School of Business, and Innovate Calgary’s Social Enterprise Incubator Program. The university’s Office of Sustainability and Office of Indigenous Engagement are other examples, as well as the introduction of UCeed Social Impact. United Way also champions social innovation through supporting programs such as the Social Impact Lab.

To mark the launch of the UCeed Social Impact Fund, UCalgary will hold an expert-led virtual discussion on March 16, hosted by McCauley and Chancellor Deborah Yedlin, to discuss what social innovation is, how to access the fund, and how UCalgary, the United Way and Innovate Calgary are making an impact in the social sector.

In addition, there will be a week of social innovation activities at UCalgary from March 15 to 19, with opportunities to explore new solutions to environmental, social and global challenges.

UCalgary and United Way businesses and agencies that apply for funding will benefit from the university’s innovation ecosystem that includes the Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking, Innovate Calgary, Life Sciences Innovation Hub, Ward of the 21st Century, IMPACT Clinical Trial Accelerator Program, and Creative Destruction Lab Rockies.

The first round of applications for the UCeed Social Impact Fund closes on April 30, 2021, and can be submitted here. For more information, you can also email