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Author: Jeff Bell

Edmonton region leads in manufacturing productivity

A strong and growing cluster

Did you know the Edmonton Metropolitan Region is home to one of Canada’s major manufacturing clusters?

In fact, over the last decade, and on a per capita basis, the region outperformed any other major city in Canada in manufacturing sales – a strong indicator of the sector’s productivity (Figure 1). And in absolute terms, Edmonton is the clear hub for manufacturing in western Canada.

Productivity is key in manufacturing, helping organizations to boost their ROI. This is why the region’s local manufacturing expertise would be useful both to international companies with expansion plans that include the need to have their products manufactured in North America, as well as North American companies exploring opportunities to onshore or partially onshore their manufacturing – a growing trend that we are seeing in the global market.

What makes the Edmonton region so attractive for manufacturing? Well, it all comes down to the five T’s.

Talent, skills & expertise

Post-secondary institutions like the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, one of Canada’s leading polytechnics, and the University of Alberta produce some of Canada’s most talented engineers, machinists, welders, technicians, operators and other manufacturing experts.

Technical Standards

Rigorous standard certification sure, combined with highly skilled staff and infrastructure mean that goods manufactured in the region meet the highest international standards for quality.

Technology

Whether it’s orbital welding, laser cladding, 3D-printing, nanofabrication, automation or rapid prototyping the region has technology experience to meet your requirements for advanced manufacturing.

There’s also plenty of resources available for those looking to drive innovation in their manufacturing operations. For example, InnoTech Alberta’s Alberta Manufacturing and Fabrication Innovation program supports the manufacturing sector through education, de-risking technologies and processes, by providing resources and expertise to support the technology adoption process. There are also private sector groups driving innovation in the sector. One example is Prototype Hubs  – they have developed an advanced manufacturing platform that automates the manufacturing process and connects those needing prototypes with those who can make them.

Transportation

The Edmonton region is strategically located on major trades routes including the Canamex highway system that links Canada to Mexico. The region is also home to North America’s closest major airport to Asia. The region is also linked both major Canadian railways providing convenient access to west coast ports and inland transportation hubs like Chicago.

Trade

Edmonton’s designation as a Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ) means investors are eligible for duty and tax relief. This means investors can establish a presence in the region, import components, complete manufacturing of products and then export those products to international markets as made-in-Canada products. The Edmonton region saw the strongest trade growth in Canada during the 10-year period from 2009-2019 at 10.8%, that’s double the national average. We expect a strong rebound in international trade post-pandemic.

Diversity

The region sold over $28 billion in manufactured goods in 2020 (figure 2) – and when we look at this chart it’s clear why the Edmonton region has a reputation as Canada’s petrochemical centre. These three areas (petroleum, chemicals and plastics) represent about two thirds of the region’s manufacturing sales in 2020. But what’s even more interesting to me are the region’s manufacturing capabilities in areas that are less well known. In 2020, the Edmonton region sold more than $200 million in twelve sub-categories of manufactured goods (see figure 2).

Machinery

Let’s take a look at the region’s expertise in the manufacture of machinery. In 2020 the Edmonton region led the country’s major cities for per capita sales ($1,550/capita) or $2.3 billion in sales in absolute terms- trailing only Toronto and Montreal (figure 3).

The region is home to more than 460 companies making everything from photography equipment (e.g. Lightrein) and chainsaw components (e.g. Goldtec International) to data centers (e.g. Silent-aire) and custom metal parts (e.g. Alco). From heavy construction equipment (CRS Cranesystems Inc) and pumps (e.g. Water Buoy Pumps Inc), to internet of things hardware (e.g. Titan Logix) and agricultural equipment (e.g. Hay Boss Feeders) – there’s a ton of innovation happening in this sector.

Computers and Electronics

Edmonton also has underappreciated capabilities in the manufacture of electronic components including computers, electronics and nanotechnology.

The Edmonton region includes 145 companies making everything from analytical instruments (Vanko Analytics) and printed circuit boards (Levven) to medical imaging equipment (MagnetTx) and data auditing equipment for the transportation and logistics industry (Data Audit Industries). Antennas (Power Antenna Manufacturing) and process control equipment (Dycor) to semiconductors (Micralyne) and novel propulsion technologies for the aerospace sector (Space Engine Systems).

In all, the region manufactured $259 million in electronics and computer equipment in 2020 across 21 subcategories of electronics (Figure 4). There is a whole other category called “electrical equipment and components”, not captured here, which resulted in an additional $205 million in sales from the region in 2020.

2020 – A challenging year

Like other jurisdictions across Canada, the Edmonton region suffered steep losses as a result of COVID-19 falling from $3 billion in January 2020 to a low of $ 1.7 billion in April 2020 before returning to $2.4 billion in January this year.

While some regions have experienced a lot of volatility, the recovery in the Edmonton region has been slow but steady, continuing to trend in the right direction – up.

Adaptability

Even before COVID-19, local manufacturers were adapting to changing markets – often using capabilities that were built up to serve traditional markets to diversify into other verticals. A few interesting examples include:

  1. Cougar Drilling leveraged their expertise in oil and gas drilling to build a product to serve the growing geothermal energy market.
  2. Karma manufacturing added the manufacture of medical devices for rehabilitative medicine to their product portfolio.
  3. G2V developed its first products for use in solar energy applications and later expanded into lighting solutions for the greenhouse sector.
  4. Appolo Machine and Welding built upon their deep experience in manufacturing to become leaders in advanced 3-D printing and laser cladding.
  5. Lea-der Coatings is best known for their drill floor traction matting but also produces an ER quality wound closure device called ZipStitch.

COVID accelerated diversification in the sector and inspired a number of local manufacturing leaders to assist in the response efforts in innovative ways. Here are just a few examples:

  1. Cowan Graphics Inc. pivoted from printing advertising and marketing materials to signage promoting social distancing; and then went further to manufacture face shields.
  2. Gear Halo went from making sports equipment to manufacturing masks for health-care workers.
  3. Orion plastics added personal protective equipment to its offering with the addition of N95 masks.
  4. Applied Quantum Materials pivoted its nanotechnology to build COVID testing kits.

Evolutionary theory holds that it’s not the strongest or even the most intelligent that survives – rather the most adaptable to change. If this holds true in a business sense, companies in the Edmonton region are demonstrating that they’re here to stay.

Not to be overlooked

We’ve been paying a lot of attention to the Edmonton region’s capabilities in areas like energy, agriculture and life sciences – the region’s manufacturing expertise isn’t always given the attention it deserves. But expertise in this sector is a major asset that shouldn’t be overlooked. Whether you’re considering expansion or re-shoring operations to North America, chances are good that the Edmonton region has the skills and infrastructure to deliver on your manufacturing requirements.

Opinion: Edmonton region poised to capitalize on the hydrogen economy

A hydrogen manufacturing unit at the Scotford Shell site, near Fort Saskatchewan. File photo PHOTO BY RICK MACWILLIAM/Postmedia

On Wednesday, April 14, the Edmonton Region Hydrogen Hub was launched, backed by over $2 million in funding from three orders of government. This is an exciting first step in the establishment of Canada’s first hydrogen hub. As the economic development organization for the Edmonton Metropolitan Region, Edmonton Global welcomes the news of this launch, are extremely proud to partner in its activities, and are excited to see the impacts that this will have on the acceleration of the hydrogen economy for our region and beyond.

The global race to export hydrogen is on and right now we have some advantages, but we can’t assume that these will last forever. That’s why we’re encouraged by this launch. We are coming together as a region to take a proactive and strategic approach to capitalize on this opportunity and move aggressively forward.

We know that for Canada and the world to meet our climate and greenhouse gas reduction targets, hydrogen must be part of the solution. And it must be produced in ways that dramatically reduce the carbon intensity. This is where our region has a significant and global advantage. We have the technologies, talent, and abundance ofnatural gas combined with proven carbon capture and storage that allows us to produce near-zero emissions hydrogen and we’re one of the lowest-cost producers in the world. A global hydrogen economy will flourish once there is adequate demand matched with an abundance of low-cost and low-emissions hydrogen — simply put, the economics need to work and right now, the Edmonton region has what’s needed to check all the right boxes.

The economic benefits that the hydrogen economy could bring to our region are truly transformative. Make no mistake, the opportunity is massive — Canadian hydrogen has a national and international wholesale market of up to $100 billion a year.

Even beyond the production and export of hydrogen and the creation of good quality, clean energy jobs, the hydrogen economy will bring significant opportunities to our region. The establishment of a hub can and will attract OEM and energy tech companies to the region — and more. The economic spin-off potential can’t be overstated. From tech start-ups to fuel cells, service companies to innovation labs, power generation to the infrastructure needed to export, and the finance and capital markets needed to bankroll these projects — it’s critical that we are paying attention to the bigger picture to ensure that we capitalize on all aspects of this opportunity. If the hydrogen economy will eventually result in hundreds of billions of immediate and spin-off benefits, we want as much of that as is possible, to be centred right here in the Edmonton metropolitan region.

When we look at how the oil and gas sector played out in our region, we can learn a few things. While significant investments were made into our region, we failed to capture a lot of the value-added benefits of this industry. This time around, it’s critical that we embrace a bold vision — one that would realize the radical transformation of our regional economy.

We must anchor this opportunity within a long-term plan to support economic development and investment attraction across our regional economy. That’s why the Edmonton Region Hydrogen Hub has been embedded into an economic development framework. It’s an incredibly competitive world when it comes to investment attraction and we must play to our strengths. Beyond being among the world’s least expensive producers of low-carbon hydrogen — we have a high quality of life, diverse and highly skilled talent, expertise in artificial intelligence, strong logistics and supply chains, and access to global markets. With focus and collaboration across our region, we can compete to win on the global stage.

Through this launch and the bringing together of key regional partners, we have the potential to accelerate the impacts that hydrogen can bring to our region, to Alberta, and to all of Canada —we’re excited to get started.

Government of Canada supports Alberta agri-food sector with investment in BioNeutra

Federal investment of $2.94 million will double BioNeutra’s manufacturing capacity, enabling this growing firm to capitalize on global consumer demands and better compete in global markets.

Canadians have long demonstrated the determination and ingenuity needed to lead the development of innovative technologies and processes that advance the agriculture industry. The agriculture and agri-foods sectors are of vital importance to the Canadian economy, providing opportunities for value-added food and food ingredient manufacturing that support high-quality jobs for Canadians.

Today, the Honourable Jim Carr, Special Representative for the Prairies, on behalf of the Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages, and Minister responsible for Western Economic Diversification Canada (WD), announced a federal investment of $2,942,050 for Edmonton-based BioNeutra to further grow its product line of organic plant-based food ingredients for the global market.

WD funding will enable BioNeutra to acquire equipment needed to double its manufacturing capacity and move its bottling processes from a foreign supplier to the company’s Alberta facility. The federal investment will help to better position BioNeutra to expand globally, creating quality jobs for Albertans, and building on Canada’s reputation as a leader in the agri-food sector. Over the next four years, the project is expected to result in more than 20 high-value jobs.

BioNeutra focuses on converting starch molecules to healthier food ingredients without chemical modification. The company’s Alberta location is the only North American facility manufacturing a type of healthy food ingredient made from plant starch. This process enables BioNeutra to produce its VitaFiber line of products—a naturally sweet, low calorie, and high fiber alternative to sugar. The VitaFiber line of natural and organic food products are sold to consumers and to food manufacturers looking to use healthier alternatives to sugar in their products.

Quotes

“The demand for healthy, organic plant-based foods is growing exponentially around the world, and Alberta is well-positioned to capitalize on this opportunity thanks to its strong agricultural sector. With today’s investment, the Government of Canada is supporting an Alberta company, helping to create jobs, and working to further strengthen Canada’s agriculture industry.”

– The Honourable Jim Carr, Special Representative for the Prairies

“The agri-food industry presents enormous potential for diversifying Alberta’s economy, and our government is committed to ensuring that companies operating in this sector can continue to create good jobs for Canadians while supporting our economic recovery.”

– The Honorable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages, and Minister responsible for Western Economic Diversification Canada 

“We are thrilled with the customer response to our sustainable, pea-based VitaFiber. We know that our customers are looking for smarter nutrition through sugar reduction and increased fiber. Through the partnership with Western Economic Diversification Canada, BioNeutra is accelerating the expansion of our facility to meet the expected demand for our ingredients both here in Canada and around the world.”

– Dr. Jianhua Zhu, President and CEO, BioNeutra Global Corporation

Quick facts

  • An interest free and repayable investment of more than $2.94 million from Western Economic Diversification Canada (WD) will double BioNeutra’s manufacturing capacity, enabling the company to meet growing consumer demands for its organic plant-based food ingredients—both nationally and internationally.
  • Founded in 2003 and based in Edmonton, BioNeutra is one of Canada’s fastest growing companies. It is a supplier of high-quality fiber ingredients and products that contribute to advanced human nutrition and wellness in functional and healthy foods. BioNeutra focuses on providing consistent, quality ingredients for formulators and manufacturers.
  • WD’s Business Scale-up and Productivity (BSP) program supports high-growth businesses that are scaling up and producing innovative goods, services, or technologies. It offers interest free, repayable funding to incorporated businesses.

Global R&D acceleration creates opportunity to grow pharmaceutical sector in Alberta, say experts

“Internationally, the biotechnology sector is more exciting now than it’s ever been,” said Dr. Lorne Tyrrell, director of the Li Ka Shing Institute in a livestream forum discussing the strengths of the research and development in Alberta’s pharmaceutical industry. “COVID-19 illustrates how rapidly we can adapt to difficult situations. It usually takes five to ten years to develop a vaccine – and with COVID-19 we’ve seen vaccines being approved in under a year.”

Dr. Tyrrell joined Nobel Laureate and director of the Li Ka Shing Applied Virology Institute, Dr. Michael Houghton, Alberta’s Minister of Jobs Economy and Innovation, Doug Schweitzer and Applied Pharmaceutical Innovation (API) CEO, Andrew MacIsaac to talk about how the biotech sector has the power to transform the economy of the Edmonton Metropolitan Region, and Alberta as a whole. The conversation was moderated by Edmonton Global’s VP, Strategy and Innovation, Lynette Tremblay

“Most Albertans aren’t aware of the building blocks in our province,” said Minister Schweitzer. “This goes way back to the investments made by [the provincial government] a decade ago, in attracting talent like Dr. Houghton and with the establishment of the Li Ka Shing Institute. Those decisions led to world-class research taking place right here in Alberta and we’re continuing that momentum with additional funding.”

The government of Alberta recently announced twenty million dollars in funding for the Li Ka Shing Institute.

“The pandemic has sped up opportunities in this sector,” Minister Schweitzer continued. “With the acceleration of research, this is going way faster than people had anticipated. The pandemic has led to breakthroughs and the breaking down of barriers to commercializing IP. First you have to look at how do we keep people healthy, but there is a development opportunity from a jobs creation perspective.”

“For the longest time, Alberta has had a really large pipeline of talent and a lot of grads from our post-secondary institutions end up at global pharmaceutical companies all over the world,” said API CEO Andrew MacIsaac. “There’s a lot of hidden gems here from an intellectual property perspective.”

These hidden gems could provide opportunities to invest in commercialization.

According to Dr. Michael Houghton Alberta already has all the ingredients needed for a successful biotech sector including:

  • World-class research happening within our universities and research institutes
  • Existing infrastructure and support including API, Edmonton Global and other economic development organizations
  • Government support and investment

“When I think back on the UK biotech wave in the 70’s and the one that happened in the bay area of California – both of which I was a part of – I’m totally convinced that Alberta will succeed in the biotech industry,” said Dr. Houghton. “I think we’re at the perfect time for personal investors, organizational investors and pharmaceutical companies to come here – that’s my message…It’s a great time to catch the Edmonton wave.”

“There’s a groundswell building here,” said Andrew MacIsaac. “And there’s an opportunity to do this for company after company after company.”

Andrew points to companies like Entos Pharmaceuticals and Providence Therapeutics, Alberta companies that have developed COVID-19 vaccines currently moving through clinical trials. Dr. John Lewis (CEO, Entos Pharmaceuticals) and Dr. Jared Davis (President, Providence Therapeutics) joined Edmonton Global in a previous live forum discussion.

Edmonton Global will be hosting another livestream exploring the expertise in the Edmonton Metropolitan Region around logistics for pharmaceutical products and the ability to get these critical goods to an international market. Be sure to follow Edmonton Global on our social channels (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook) to stay up to date for upcoming events and to get alerted when we are going live.

Event highlights – The California market for hydrogen

Understanding international demand for Alberta hydrogen exports


As the world transitions to renewable energy sources, hydrogen will play an integral role in Canada’s and the world’s transition to a low carbon economy. As such, hydrogen represents a significant economic opportunity for the Edmonton Metropolitan Region and the province of Alberta. The race to export hydrogen is on and our region holds some unique advantages and is well suited to become Canada’s first hydrogen node. The Edmonton region is one of the lowest cost places in the world to make low-carbon hydrogen and we have the expertise, talent, infrastructure and resources (low-cost natural gas and the ability to safely store CO2) in our region to accelerate the launch of the hydrogen economy – but these advantages won’t last forever. That’s why Edmonton Global, together with our partner Alberta’s Industrial Heartland Association, are hosting a series of online workshops aimed at exploring the export market in key regions including:

  • Japan
  • California
  • China
  • South Korea

The workshop exploring the California market took place on March 25, 2021. It included some great insights from key stakeholders from both the public and private sector about California’s emerging hydrogen market.  Panelists from the California Governor’s office, the California Energy Commission, and the California Hydrogen Business Council spoke about California’s ambitious targets for shifting to zero emission fuels over the coming 25 years, and how hydrogen will play an important role in this shift.  Some of the key points raised during the workshop included:

  • Don’t get confused by the colors.  California’s expectations around low cost, low carbon fuels include hydrogen derived from natural gas that makes use of carbon capture and storage technology.  California also has an established emission credit system that is part of their process for advancing low carbon fuels.
  • The transportation sector is a large focus for California, but power generation is an opportunity they are beginning to look at
  • The California regulators will evolve as required if presented with a compelling case for low-cost, low-carbon hydrogen supply—in particular, the requirements for “renewable” electricity mix on the grid, and “renewable” hydrogen content at the fueling stations.  They currently have subjective categories but anticipate moving to objective requirements such as carbon intensity.
  • California has a rapidly growing hydrogen market and there will be advantages associated with having a diverse energy portfolio including a range of hydrogen suppliers from multiple jurisdictions, including Canada.
  • Decisions on how to meet the state’s demand will be driven by the market, including the how hydrogen will be transported (rail, pipelines, ships) and its form (eg. liquified hydrogen, ammonia, methanol).
  • Current gaps include the installation of hydrogen transport and distribution infrastructure and it will be important to work on this concurrently as hydrogen production and demand increases.
  • Scale is a huge factor in delivered costs.  They were projecting cost equivalency to retail gasoline in the next 5-10 years and a recent Executive Order (N-79-20) is expected to speed that up.
  • California is eager to share research results and best practices associated with the development of standards, including the blending of hydrogen into natural gas distribution systems.  Stakeholders within the Edmonton Region Hydrogen Hub are working hard to advance similar opportunity areas and there is value in connecting with the California Energy Commission process to learn more.

Maggie Hanna the President of Common Ground Energy Corporation and Fellow at the Energy Futures Lab attended the event and said, “The three presenters at this workshop are clearly the key people that Alberta needs to be talking to in order to further explore how to capitalize on the California market. Blending projects, in particular, look like they will create opportunities for Alberta hydrogen. If Alberta were to supply a maximum of 15-20% blended hydrogen into their existing natural gas exports, aimed at the California power grid, that would take them a significant way towards their decarbonization goals. It would also be pipeline friendly at less than 20% hythane.”

You can watch a recording of the workshop here:

 

The next workshop in this series, which will take place on April 15, 2021, will explore the Korean market for hydrogen.

Unleashing the global potential of cellular agriculture

Future Fields co-founders Matthew Anderson-Baron, Jalene Anderson-Baron and Lejjy Gafour

From punk rock to bio-punk

When friends Lejjy Gafour, Matthew Anderson-Baron and Jalene Anderson-Baron first founded Future Fields they were focused on the goal of producing lab grown meat through a process known as cellular agriculture. Concerned about the environmental impact of traditional agriculture, and with a view to solving some of the world’s biggest challenges around food security, the friends believed that cellular agriculture could provide the solutions.

“We met hanging out in the punk scene in Edmonton,” said Lejjy Gafour, CEO of Future Fields. “We like to say we went from punk rock to bio-punk. We all have really diverse backgrounds – that’s been one of our strengths. Because we were focused on doing something completely new, we’ve looked to many different sectors including biotechnology, software and design, systems design and social sciences to build a path forward.”

Addressing some of the world’s biggest challenges

Feeding a growing population, addressing climate change, and mitigating the threat of antibiotic resistant and zoonotic diseases are some of the biggest challenges we are facing as a planet. It’s clear that the food industry as we currently know it, will not be able to meet the demand for animal-derived food products by 2050. As climate change accelerates and we experience the spread of these diseases, the industry is in need of positive change. Lejjy, Matthew and Jalene wanted to be a part of the solution.

What they soon discovered was that one of the biggest challenges cellular agriculture faced was around the commercialization of the technology – specifically it’s scalability. Cultured meat was expensive to produce, making it inaccessible to most of the population.

“Right now, there’s a restaurant in Singapore that actually serves lab grown chicken,” said Lejjy Gafour, co-founder and CEO of Future Fields. “This technology is real, but the cost of growth media is still a key hurdle to mass commercialization of cellular agriculture – we have the key to solving that problem.”

“For me, tackling food insecurity is incredibly important and it’s not an abstract concept at all,” said Lejjy. “Growing up, I personally experienced what is politely called food insecurity. I can remember very clearly what it was like to not know where my next meal was coming from – and what that felt like.”

A bold mission

This personal connection to the company’s mission is probably why Future Fields’ ambitions have grown far beyond bringing lab-grown chicken nuggets to market. They aren’t interested in launching an expensive and inaccessible consumer product just to have something on the market. Instead, their team is playing the long game and have developed the underlying technology that meat developers need to produce lab-grown meat on par with the cost of traditional meat. Their mission is a bold one – to unleash the full potential of cellular agriculture – and they’ve recently taken a big step forward in accomplishing that goal.

Just last month they shipped their first round of cellular growth medium to customers to be used to produce lab grown meat.  Cellular growth medium is the most important ingredient needed in cellular agriculture and up until now, the solutions have been incredibly expensive, making it impossible for companies in this sector to scale. But Future Fields’ growth medium is significantly cheaper to produce – up to 10,000x less expensive than what is currently available – allowing businesses to create lab grown meat that is nearly on par with the cost of traditional meat.

“This is a critical step forward in the rapid commercialization of this industry. By solving one of its biggest challenges – providing affordable, high quality, customized growth media, this material will allow our customers to create price parity products at scale,” said Lejjy. “We made the decision earlier on to put all of our efforts behind accelerating the growth of the entire cellular agriculture industry by focussing on developing a growth medium that was exponentially cheaper. By removing the cost to scale from the perspective of growth media, we see huge potential for this sector to take off and grow exponentially.”

This is an important milestone for the company, and for the cellular agriculture industry as a whole, as it represents a hurdle that was previously unsolved. According to Lejjy, Future Fields expects to see products incorporating their growth factor entering the retail market within the next 2 years.

“One of the other exciting things we are seeing is an expansion of the scope of this technology,” said Lejjy. “We have customers who are using our products to work on solutions for milks, and then there are also applications for producing materials like leather or other materials that were traditionally harvested from animals.”

A huge opportunity

For investors, the potential market size of cellular agriculture and alternative protein products can’t be overstated. The current animal products market was estimated to be worth $2.17 trillion in 2018 with human food accounting for 85% of this market. The alternative meat market is expected to grow from $4.6 billion in 2018 to $140 billion in ten years. You don’t need to be overly optimistic to see the potential for the alternative protein market.

Aside from completing their first shipment to clients, it’s been a busy couple of months for Future Fields. Just last week they pitched as a finalist in the Innovative Worlds category at the SXSW Pitch competition – Future Fields was selected as one of 40 finalists across 8 categories from all over the world. And they recently landed $2.2 million in seed funding.

The Edmonton region advantage

“We have plans to expand our team and build up our production capacity right here in the Edmonton region, to match the massive demand we are seeing from our customers. As we continue to ship products to customers, we know we will need to produce growth medium at a much larger scale for the commercial market,” said Lejjy. “There’s a bit of a global race going on right now around who’s going to solve the commercialization issue first. We’re really playing the role of technology enabler for the industry and this is a great place for us to grow. We have access to incredible talent out of the post-secondary institutions here, and manufacturing facilities are affordable for a startup like ourselves.”

Lejjy points out that the opportunity for this industry is massive and it is still very early.

“We really see ourselves as the path to unleashing the full potential of cellular agriculture and we want people to join us. We believe that there is incredible opportunity to build a hub for cellular agriculture in Alberta and in the Edmonton region,” said Lejjy. Long-term, we plan to keep our headquarters in the Edmonton region with satellite production facilities to support the international demand we are seeing for our products. Within the Edmonton region we have the inputs and the talent. And there’s an entrepreneurial spirit in the biotechnology sector. Agriculture has a rich history here and we can be at the forefront of the evolution of this industry. It can be done here – and the proof is that we are already doing it.”

Learn more about technology and innovation in the Edmonton Metropolitan Region.

Business incubator expands

An Alberta facility that helps establish and expand agri-food businesses will itself be expanding thanks to $24 million from the provincial government.

The Agrivalue Processing Business Incubator in Leduc will be able to provide more space for people to develop products without having to risk building their own manufacturing facilities, said director of operations Dan Graham.

“It’s a gamble to invest in bricks and mortar,” he said.

“When you only have small volumes, you have to have a lot of confidence in your product, and this facility helps them absorb some of the risk.”

The provincial funding will pay for a 25,000 sq. foot expansion of the business incubator, including three additional suites of about 5,000 sq. feet each. The project adds to seven suites within the existing 75,000 sq. foot facility, he added.

Suites are rented to people or companies, providing spaces for them to bring their own equipment to conduct food processing. The incubator is managed by Alberta Agriculture’s food and bio processing branch.

“The purpose of the incubator is to assist start-up companies to establish a market presence, provide serviced facilities to develop and refine production techniques, share experiences with other entrepreneurs and take advantage of economies from sharing services and facilities.”

Thirteen companies have entered into agreements with the incubator since it opened in 2007, said Graham in an email.

“We estimate that those companies have invested over $60 million as a direct result of their time at the (incubator).”

The money for the expansion is part of Alberta’s Recovery Plan, which aims to create 90,000 jobs by spending $20.7 billion on infrastructure projects under the provincial government’s 2021-24 Capital Plan. Of that amount, $825 million will be for new projects during the next three years, said a provincial statement.

“After a year of unprecedented hardship, Alberta’s economy is showing signs of recovery, and Alberta’s government will be there to support that recovery with major investments in new projects that build the architecture of Alberta’s future economy,” said Premier Jason Kenney in the statement.

Besides helping spark new businesses, the incubator aims to attract established companies to Alberta.

“We’ve had feedback from people both from outside Alberta, but in Canada, and people from other parts of the world that have told us things like, we have a world-class facility,” said Graham in an interview.

As a multi-tenant facility that is operated as a not-for-profit business, the incubator meets federal food regulations. It is inspected by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, allowing resident companies to market products such as meat internationally as well as nationally, he added.

Graham said Alberta has the proven potential to develop new businesses and industries from the agriculture sector.

“We’ve graduated companies through here that have gone on to set up their own facilities in the province and expanded their business, so I’m confident that the prospect is very good for companies coming here.”

Learn more about the food and agriculture sector in the Edmonton Metropolitan Region.

New tech converts waste into clean energy

Clean Energy Technology by Stamped Engineering Clean Energy Technology by Stamped Engineering

 

 

Stamped Engineering has developed a clean energy technology that converts organic waste into useable a clean energy source in three forms:

  • Liquid biofuel – which can be customized to suit the end user’s needs
  • Electricity
  • Electricity and heat

Their technology, which is currently patent pending, is fully customized to the end user’s needs and is completely adaptive to the type of organic waste used. This means that the technology has no identified limitations on the type of organic waste inputs that can be used and would provide solutions for a wide variety of clean energy applications.

A pivot to building innovation

Stamped Engineering has developed technology that converts organic waste into clean energy

 Stamped Engineering is a consultancy firm that specializes in design engineering customized to the needs of their clients. Like many consultancies, they experienced a bit of a slowdown in the number of contracts that they were taking on during the pandemic. They decided to pivot and threw the bulk of their effort and resources behind refining their technology for their Organic Waste to Clean Energy innovation.

“We weren’t content to play a passive role when it comes to business development,” said Jeenu Riat, CEO and president of Stamped Engineering. “We had been working on the idea behind using organic waste to produce clean energy for a while. This just gave us the opportunity to accelerate those plans and refine this technology that will help solve a global challenge.”

Organic waste a major contributor to GHGs

 Many people may not realize that emissions from Canadian landfills account for 20% of national methane emissions. Methane is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide in terms of its global warming potential. While landfill gas recovery is one method currently being used to deal with the organic materials already in landfills – it’s far from perfect. More than half of all emissions generated in landfills in Canada are still entering the atmosphere. That’s why it’s critical that we find ways to divert organic materials such as food and yard waste from landfills – and Stamped’s technology does just that.

“This technology solves a number of problems,” said Jeenu. “We’re able to produce clean energy out of what is essentially a free product. This waste is just sitting in our landfills – and it’s important to remember that it’s not innocuous – it’s actually releasing a lot of greenhouse gas emissions. We’re able to convert this ‘resource’ into a clean energy source with really low emissions. And we’re confident, that with the right funding we can get to a zero-emission product. Our technology is infinitely scalable and adaptable for our clients.”

Environmental impact

 Jeenu sees a lot of benefits in partnering with municipalities to support both their individual waste strategies and their goals around developing environmental, social and governance (ESG) policies. And she’s on to something, from an investment attraction perspective. ESG is steadily growing in importance within the international investment community. By building in processes and technologies that reduce GHGs and embrace clean energy sources, there’s an opportunity for cities to play a leading role in the transition to net-zero.

To get an idea of the potential impact of this technology, Jeenu points to a couple of stats:

  • A town with a population of 10,000 generates an average of 2.3 million pounds of food waste in a year. If Stamped’s technology converted this food waste into clean energy they could supply enough energy to power 1600 computers for a full year’s worth of working hours. And remember, this is just food waste.
  • You can also look at the potential from a national perspective – Canadians generate over 8.6 billion pounds of food waste per year. If this food waste was converted into energy, it would generate enough power to power more than 80,000 homes or 265,957 electric vehicles for an entire year.

For both of these examples, the number is even higher if we consider all organic waste generated and not just food waste.

Patents have been filed for the technology in both Canada and the US, and the Stamped team has plans to do the same for the European market. According to Jeenu, there are currently no similar patents filed in North America.

Jeenu Riat, CEO, Stamped Engineering

Building a clean tech innovation hub

 Much of Jeenu’s career has been spent in both the aerospace and energy sector and she understands from experience the need to invest in clean energy solutions.

“I see Stamped as an innovation hub for a variety of industries and am excited to include clean technology in our portfolio,” said Jeenu. “We’ve got a phenomenal team who are united around a common goal of providing the solutions that our clients are looking for. ESG policies are growing in importance – both to governments and businesses. With this technology, we can provide solutions from start to finish. From collecting the waste to converting it into a usable end product and then delivering it to the end-user – we’re ready to do it all.”

Stamped’s business model is different than most consultancy firms. While the majority of the team are full-time employees of Stamped, Jeenu purposefully built the company structure to include a network of expert consultants from a broad range of backgrounds. They’re able to provide niche services on topics where they are the experts in their fields. This network of experts, combined with their in-house team of experienced engineers, technologists and project support staff, allows Stamped to build a customized team that suits the needs of each client and each project.

“We have consultants who have over 50 years of experience and are world-renowned experts,” said Jeenu. “That’s certainly an advantage for us – and it helps to accelerate and encourage innovation within our own team.”

Jeenu points to one example where her firm was contracted by a large energy company with over 70,000 employees.

“They came to us with a problem that they were trying to solve for three years,” explains Jeenu. “In just three weeks, we built them a solution that provided the safety and assessment assurance that they needed in order to proceed.”

Applying their unique and innovative approach and business model helps Stamped analyse and solve their clients’ complex challenges quickly.  With their clean energy technology, they applied their client model to their own technology with incredible results.

Talent is key to innovation

 Talent is a key factor when it comes to driving innovation. So too, is breaking down barriers for innovators, by providing the support that industry needs to bring their ideas to market. Beyond their own proprietary technology, Stamped provides support to clients with securing patents – and they’re helping to solve challenges around design constraints, parameters and safety regulations – a common problem that innovators face when they are working to commercialize their ideas.

The Stamped team has worked with organizations from all over the world, including the Middle East, Europe and the US. Though there is potential to expand, Jeenu believes that the Edmonton region is the absolute best place for her company to be headquartered.

“I love the Edmonton region,” says Jeenu. “It’s where I started my career and where I always wanted to come back to. And on a really practical level, the access to talent we have here is second to none. The expertise here represents a broad range of industries and the quantity and quality of talent coming out of the post-secondary institutions means we have some of the world’s brightest minds right here – ready to provide solutions to some of the world’s biggest challenges.”

Learn more about technology and innovation in the Edmonton Region.

Investors should look to Alberta for their biotech investments

Competitive advantages combined with new government policy create near-term investment opportunities in western Canada

The pandemic has created a catalyst for Alberta to establish itself as a leading destination for investment into biotechnology and pharmaceutical R&D and manufacturing.  Alberta biotech companies and researchers rose to the challenge when they heard of the fast-spreading COVID-19 virus in early January 2020. Many biotech organizations pivoted quickly to throw the bulk of their resources to addressing the emerging crisis. Within a year, there were seventeen proposals for vaccines out of the University of Alberta and today, two Alberta companies have developed vaccines that are now entering clinical trials. 

The Governments of Alberta and Canada are responding by making investments to support vaccine development and grow domestic manufacturing capacity. The Edmonton Metropolitan Region in Alberta, Canada is well-positioned to be a state-of-the-art integrated biotechnology and pharmaceutical hub for vaccine production for this and future pandemics. The region has a strong network to support research and development and commercialization of new medicines. Some of the Edmonton Metropolitan Region’s key strengths for biotechnology and pharmaceuticals include:

  • Talent and research expertise
    • The University of Alberta ranks in the top fifteen globally for its research citations in the pharmaceutical sciences, and third in Canada for number of active clinical trials in 2020
    • The Li Ka Shing Virology Institute is home to some of Canada’s top virologists – including Order of Canada recipient, Lorne Tyrell and Nobel Laureate, Dr. Michael Houghton.
  • Industry infrastructure and a growing cluster
    • Applied Pharmaceutical Innovation (API) is a not-for-profit institute that helps commercialize pharmaceuticals.
      • In the past two years API has incubated enterprises that have grown to a combined market capitalization of $370 million.
    • The Edmonton region has a strong ecosystem of pharmaceutical companies that includes a cluster of chemical companies and engineering talent in manufacturing early-stage inputs and mid-stage active pharmaceutical ingredients.
      • This cluster has already attracted biopharmaceutical giant, Gilead Sciences into the region. Gilead’s investment spans over 15 years and they’ve continued to invest with a recently completed expansion.
  • Logistics and access to markets
    • The Edmonton International Airport is the first airport in Canada to successfully secure CEIV certification for pharmaceutical handling through the International Air Transportation Association. This means they have the expertise and capability to get drugs and vaccines to a global market. 
      • The Edmonton International Airport is the closest major North American airport to Asia via circumpolar routes.
  • Government support
    • Alberta’s Economic Recovery Plan prioritizes leveraging Alberta’s world class research to grow the pharmaceutical industry – sending a clear message to investors that the government is serious about their support of this sector. 
      • Last week, the Government of Alberta announced they would be accepting proposals for COVID-19 vaccine development and manufacturing to be done within the province.
    • The Government of Canada has also expressed interest in building up its domestic vaccine production capacity. 
      • The 2020 Fall Economic Statement included a mandate to explore ways to support pandemic preparedness and support the growth of clusters of biotechnology expertise across the country. 
      • A recently completed consultation focused on targeted enhancements to Canada’s biomanufacturing and life sciences ecosystem and growing critical biologics and therapeutics manufacturing and life sciences capabilities.

These competitive advantages, combined with recent announcements from both the provincial and federal governments, mean it’s the perfect time to  invest in biotechnology and pharmaceuticals in the Edmonton Metropolitan Region. 

An emerging opportunity

“Alberta has the building blocks to actually build out a legitimate, credible pharmaceutical industry and vaccine development industry, all the way from development to production,” said Alberta’s Jobs Economy and Innovation Minister, Doug Schweitzer in a recent oped in the National Post. Over the next several weeks Edmonton Global will be hosting a series of online discussion forums spotlighting current investment opportunities and specific aspects of our competitive advantage including:

  • Expertise in vaccine development and manufacturing
  • Biotech research and development expertise
  • Talent, supply chain & logistics

Our first conversation will take place on Monday March 22 at 12:00MDT and will be livestreamed on our social media channels (LinkedIn,Twitter, Facebook). 

We’ll be chatting with Applied Pharmaceutical Innovation’s CEO, Andrew MacIsaac as well as representatives from two Alberta companies that are developing COVID-19 vaccines – Dr. John Lewis, founder and CEO, Entos Pharmaceuticals and Dr. Jared Davis, President, Providence Therapeutics. Be sure to follow us on social media (LinkedIn,Twitter, Facebook) to keep up to date on these upcoming events.

Learn more about the opportunities in the life sciences sector in the Edmonton Region.

Edmonton tech firm building bridges to net zero future

IFS has entered into an agreement with Westcan Bulk Transport and have implemented IFS’ technology on one of their trucks with five more to be outfitted in March, 2021

Edmonton based tech start-up, Innovative Fuel Systems (IFS) has developed a multi-fuel technology that allows heavy-duty truck engines to displace up to 55% of diesel fuel with natural gas or other cleaner burning fuels. Last year, they successfully filed a PCT International Application with the United States Patent Office to seek full global patent protection for their Multi Fuel Technology Platform (MFTP™). With a focus on worldwide commercialization in the road transportation sector, they are beginning the process of rolling out the first trucks outfitted with this technology. 

While businesses in a lot of traditional sectors have been experiencing increased uncertainty and anxiety throughout the global economic recession, IFS is bucking the trend as they successfully move into the commercialization stage of their technology.

“The government grants that we’ve been able to access have been really helpful in reaching this stage,” said Leland Oberst, CEO of Innovative Fuel Systems. “It’s clear that the government wants us to succeed. And what I’ve found, is that a lot of our angel investors view these grants as a stamp of approval and it really helps to move the dial on an investor’s final decision to invest in our company.” 

Already IFS has entered into an agreement with Westcan Bulk Transport and have implemented IFS’ technology on one of their trucks with five more to be outfitted in March. They’re also experiencing a lot of interest in their company by the investment banking community, which isn’t surprising when we look at global investment trends. 

Growing emphasis on ESG 

Over the last 12 months, the pandemic has overshadowed nearly every other newsworthy story in the media including climate change. But what we’ve also seen is an increased interest in ESG (environmental, social and governance) policies by international investors. This means that businesses that are paying attention to these trends are the ones thriving in our current economic climate. 

Globally, this was the year the “net zero by 2050” climate commitment went mainstream with the number of commitments to reach net zero emissions from local governments and businesses roughly doubling in less than a year. Governments and industry are prioritizing climate action in their recovery from Covid-19 and as part of the UN Race to Zero campaign, many are aiming for a zero-carbon economy by 2050. There’s also a growing alliance aiming to reach these targets as early as the 2040s. And the buy-in is significant. This alliance now encompasses 22 regions, 452 cities, 1,101 businesses, 549 universities and 45 of the biggest investors. This shift isn’t just happening in emerging sectors, traditional sectors are finding new innovative practices and technologies to lessen their dependence on fossil fuels. 

The challenge that exists in traditional sectors, like the heavy-duty trucking industry, is that the macroeconomics make it incredibly challenging to undertake this type of transition. Currently, any green technologies that are emerging for this sector (electrical, hydrogen, etc.) are incredibly cost-prohibitive. With cost savings being the biggest driver to change for this industry, there hasn’t been a significant onus to innovate. That’s where Innovative Fuel Systems comes in. 

The need for bridge technologies

IFS’ technology reduces operating fuel costs, preserves torque and engine performance characteristics, and at the same time, reduces greenhouse gas emissions. IFS’ technology, which is sold and licensed to customers as an aftermarket product, also preserves the integrity of a manufacturer’s engine -warranty making the technology infinitely scalable.

Leland Oberst, CEO, Innovative Fuel Systems

“‘Bridge technologies’ have a major role to play in the energy transition,” said Leland. “Traditionally, diesel fuel has been getting the job done in terms of functionality and transportability. But there is also a growing recognition within the industry that there is a need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The beauty behind our technology blending natural gas with diesel fuel is that, while it lowers emissions and introduces significant fuel savings, it is also able to deliver the same power that these heavy-duty trucks need. Natural gas is plentiful and cheap in North America and IFS’ technology doesn’t create any trade-offs as far as functionality. We really see our technology as a win-win-win scenario.”

And industry agrees. 

“Westcan is committed to reducing GHG emissions and will continue to play a leadership role in reducing both GHG emissions and fuel costs in order to make our operations efficient and sustainable,” says Mike Royer, Vice President, Fleet Services, Westcan. “Utilizing IFS’ technology gives us the potential to impactfully reduce GHG emissions and fuel costs from Class 8 heavy-duty trucks, including trucks with payload in excess of 80,000lbs.”

As Leland points out, the bridge to carbon neutral by 2050 is not a short bridge and technologies such as their Multi Fuel Technology Platform allows businesses operating in this sector to reduce their environmental impact in a way that is accessible. At the same time, bridge technologies can give the emerging green technology sector the time needed to build solutions that address the scalability issues around these innovations in a way that makes sense from a macroeconomic and business development standpoint. 

“At IFS, we believe any technology that reduces GHG emissions must also be economically viable – this ensures comprehensive market adoption,” said Leland. “By taking a pragmatic approach to product development, IFS ensures our cleantech provides customers a tangible and quantifiable economic benefit.”

A view to a carbon neutral future

It’s that pragmatic approach that has Leland and IFS keeping their sights on the future of where this industry is headed. “It’s important to note that our technology platform has ability to utilize other cleaner burning fuels,” said Leland. “As such, our patent is designed around the use of multiple fuels. This means that we’re ready to broaden the applicability of our technology with other fuels as new opportunities emerge. We know that hydrogen is likely to play a major role in energy transition broadly and in this industry specifically. When appropriate, we’re less than one year away from being able to introduce hydrogen fuel capability into our technology.”

When it comes to the future of IFS Leland is bullish about their prospects. “When I look at our company, I see rapid market adoption because our prospective customers are able to reduce fuel costs, while also reducing GHG emissions. Also, we’ve put together an experienced and driven team that’s excited about contributing to IFS’ future. There’s a real entrepreneurial spirit within our team. Our goal is to have our kits outfitted on at least 7,700 trucks by 2026, which means we’re looking to expand our customer base well beyond the Edmonton Metropolitan Region.”

Learn more about innovations in clean energy in the Edmonton Region

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