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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.

Edmonton’s ShookIOT acquired by Chicago-based software company

Edmonton’s ShookIOT founders Dave Shook and Leanna Chan recently announced the company’s acquisition by Chicago-based software company Uptake. The owners hope the merger will help give the start-up more resources to grow. Submitted photo ShookIOT jpg

A small Edmonton-based startup now has the resources to grow its business even more after being purchased by a Chicago software company.

ShookIOT was created in 2017 by founders Dave Shook and Leanna Chan, both former Matrikon executives, to provide data management services. On Feb. 8, it was announced Uptake, an industrial artificial intelligence software company, purchased ShookIOT.

Details of the deal are not being disclosed publicly.

Shook said the merger made sense as both companies complemented each other.

“We’re a small startup, we started it with our own money,” he said. “We’ve been running (the company) on cash flow but there’s a window of opportunity to capture the market right now. We need to scale up both on the commercial side and on the execution side. We didn’t have the internal resources to do that. We needed a larger partner in one way or another. The acquisition by Uptake is giving us the muscle that we need to grow.”

The goal of both companies is to provide organizations with up-to-date information on their operations, whether that be in the oil and gas sector or another industry, in order to maintain equipment and facilities.

Shook said the data being provided allows organizations to be more efficient by ensuring everything runs smoothly.

“There’s a lot you can do with that data around optimizing how you run your whole business,” he said. “Uptake, in particular, focuses on optimizing maintenance and equipment reliability so equipment runs as it should with the least downtime and the lowest cost. They need the data that we get in order to do that most effectively.”

While small, Edmonton’s tech sector has been growing over the past few years and was ranked among the top 10 markets to watch by CBRE Limited’s 2020 ranking on U.S. and Canadian cities. The city had more than 25,200 jobs in the tech sector in 2019, a 17 per cent increase over the last five years, according to the ranking.

Shook said both companies remain committed to Edmonton and plan to invest in the region.

“We’re here to stay,” he said. “We’re continuing to hire and we’re continuing to look locally and we’re continuing to operate within here. Uptake didn’t buy us to take us apart, Uptake bought us to integrate us into (them).”

Having started the business only a few years ago, Chan said it has been satisfying to see how far the company has come.

“We’re super excited to be a part of the Uptake family,” she said. “It’s such a great fit between us and our culture. We really feel we are already ‘Uptakers’, that’s sort of the terminology and we love it.”

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