Science. Technology. Health Care. Welcome to the Ward of the 21st Century.

About W21C | Overview

Welcome to W21C! We are a research and innovation initiative based in the University of Calgary (UCalgary) and the Calgary Zone of Alberta Health Services (AHS). Our collaborative space and diverse team enables both researchers and industry experts to bring new ideas, prototypes, or health care products for testing in pre-clinical and clinical environments - to enhance patient safety and quality of care both now and in the future.

W21C Vision and Mission:

Vision: Define the future of health care

Mission: To innovate, create, educate, and evolve to build new paradigms of health care delivery

W21C Strengths and Values:

Although there are a number of reputable national and international innovation initiatives in health care located all over the world, W21C differentiates itself in a unique way through the coalescence of the following strengths and core values:

Research Facilities and Programs: The W21C complements existing infrastructure in Alberta through the addition of an applied health innovation laboratory, showcase, and testing facility located directly within the health system.  The W21C ‘living laboratory’ (Unit 36 at the Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary) is nationally and internationally unique and enables us to catalyze multidisciplinary research and innovation activities within a state-of-the-art clinical care space. In addition to this, the W21C Research & Innovation Centre in the Teaching, Research, and Wellness Building (TRW) at the Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary, allows our team to pursue applied health Research and Development partnerships and applications with commercial potential.

Multidisciplinary Team of Experts: In addition to physicians and other health care providers, our team consists of specialists from a vast array of disciplines, including: sociology, computer science, business, engineering, and anthropology, to name a few. This breadth of multidisciplinary expertise demonstrates a scope of academic inquiry that has considerable potential to be truly transformative.

Institutional Commitments: AHS’s allocation of space for research in immediate proximity to a clinical ward (Unit 36, FMC), along with the corresponding allocation of a separate Cumming School of Medicine research and innovation space in the Teaching Research and Wellness Building (“TRW”), illustrates the powerful institutional backing that this initiative receives within the province.

Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda: W21C is an exciting initiative that strives to fulfill its research potential within the umbrella of improving patient safety and quality of care. Through this strategic research and innovation agenda we hope to contribute rapidly to better health care for present and future generations.

Collaborations and Partnerships: Collaborations and partnerships are the backbone of the research that takes place at W21C. In addition to the strategic partnership between AHS and the University of Calgary, they include: 1) new partnerships among academic disciplines; 2) new collaborations with national and international experts in a variety of disciplines; and 3) evolving cross-sectoral partnerships with industry.


The Ward of the 21st Century (W21C) is a research and innovation initiative based at the University of Calgary (UCalgary) and in the Calgary zone of Alberta Health Services (AHS). The W21C was created to respond to the urgent need for innovation in health care. The Canadian Adverse Events Study (2004) reported that as many as 20,000 deaths occur annually in Canadian hospitals from preventable adverse events. This finding drew considerable attention to the issues of safety and quality in health care, resulting in a call for strategic research and innovation to address the challenges in health care systems.

Background Video: Creating the Ward of the 21st Century



W21C began in 2004 with the creation and opening of a state-of-the-art Medical Unit that functions as a "Living Laboratory" at the Foothills Medical Centre (FMC) in Calgary. In 2008, W21C received funding to accomplish the second phase of its vision, constructing the new W21C Research and Innovation Centre in the UCalgary Cumming School of Medicine’s Teaching, Research and Wellness (TRW) Building. Doors opened to the new W21C Research and Innovation Centre in the Fall of 2009.  These state-of-the-art clinical and research spaces enable health system innovation and engage our multidisciplinary researchers to collaborate on exciting approaches to improve patient safety and quality of care.


As a University-based not-for-profit program, W21C’s governance channels through the UCalgary's Cumming School of Medicine research enterprise, with primary alignment within the O'Brien Institute for Public Health (OIPH).  As the primary host institution, the University of Calgary provides W21C with its infrastructure and building operations costs, trust accounting and human resources services and other institutional benefits.


A combined federal-provincial investment of more than $1.9 million under the Canada-Alberta Western Economic Partnership Agreement (WEPA) is supporting W21C to staff and purchase lab equipment that will allow small and medium-sized firms to cost-effectively demonstrate new healthcare solutions and applications in a real healthcare setting.

The total value of WEPA funding is $3.6 million to 2013 which, in addition to funding through WED and AET, includes contributions from UCalgary, Alberta Health and Wellness (AH&W), AHS, Alberta Innovates (AI) and contributions through corporate donors and industry partnerships.

The funding received through WEPA has helped strengthen W21C’s position as a leader in the health technology innovation sector.

For more information, please contact Leora Rabatach.