Humans of Alberta Innovation honoured at INVESTURE$ 2018

Three 2017 ASTech Award Winners and Humans of Alberta Innovation were celebrated on the final day of the INVENTURE$ conference, June 8, 2018. The INVENTURE$ Conference brought venture capitalists, angel investors, startups, entrepreneurs, service providers and thought leaders together in Calgary to discover and share the latest in innovation, research, capital access and deal-making. At the Pitch Awards, the Humans of Alberta Innovation series captured the passion behind the achievements honoured at the ASTech Awards. Check out their stories:

 

Left to right: Laura Kilcrease, CEO of Alberta Innovates; Stuart Kinnear, co-founder of Interface Fluidics; Dr. Lori J. West, University of Alberta; Dr. Christopher Clarkson, University of Calgary; Minister Deron Bilous, Economic Development and Trade.
The previous ASTech Winners and Humans of Alberta Innovation showcased the story behind their work on the final day of the INVENTURE$ “un-conference.”
Rick Tofani, Director of Applied Research and Innovation Services at SAIT and ASTech Foundation Board Chair, introducing the Humans of Alberta Innovation series at the 2018 INVENTURE$ conference.

 

Humans of Alberta Innovation: Dr. Ryan Tucker

Take a look at the people behind the research, product, company or groundbreaking discovery. The ASTech Foundation’s Humans of Alberta Innovation campaign shows a new side to Alberta’s fascinating innovation community — the human one.

Dr. Ryan Tucker is the 2015 Leaders of Tomorrow Winner for leading an applied research team that helps create and take new products to market for environmental protection, water treatment, and sustainable construction.

It’s all about trying to make an opportunity for yourself in whatever situation you’re in.

Growing up I was much like many kids where I wanted to be a fireman, or an architect. Understanding what a career is when you’re young, it’s a wacky thing, especially for those still in school. I’ve always enjoyed science and technology. I was interested in how things work and what goes into making things operate. Even as a kid I would always take things apart around the house and I was really fascinated with the concept of inventing something.

My fascination with how things work got me interested in science and technology. The next part was opportunity. It’s all about finding out what opportunities exist and working towards them. Once I got to university, I realized I actually had some skill at this and there were some things I could do to have a career in science and technology. Innovation is happening globally and I’ll always try to find a spot to become a part of it. It’s everywhere; it’s the only thing that’s going to make my children’s lives different than my own. My new gauge of success is how can my work have a positive impact on a larger number of people?

I had the opportunity to live in the Netherlands to work in science, which was really cool. On the weekends, I had a motorcycle so having the freedom to roam around and time do to it was the greatest blessing. I really valued that. When I travel, whether it be for work or pleasure, anywhere I can find a science centre or technology museum, you’ll find me there.

In terms of experimental infrastructure and research infrastructure, we have a lot of great facilities in Alberta. On the education front, we train good scientists, engineers and technologists. There are some companies that are truly innovating on a global scale, but we need more. Being ready to try to move towards a global level of innovation is something they should be ready to do. The first job you get may not be working for NASA, or actually working at the forefront of science and technology, but there’s an opportunity over your career to bring what you’re working on closer to true innovation.

I had job offers that I chose not to take because I wanted to stay in Alberta. There’s a big opportunity here to take the time to progress our industry and broaden the spectrum. Our universities are great and I think it’s worthwhile to stay and try to push the envelope. Any young innovator who’s starting their career in Alberta should seek out those who also find value in staying and building something here. It’s not going to happen in one company or with one person; it’s a group of people within a vast industry that strive for success.

It’s all about trying to make an opportunity for yourself in whatever situation you’re in. I’ve always been interested in working in the energy and water sectors; they’re becoming the biggest technological issues in this generation. I’m in the early stages of a project right now working with another company and the University of Alberta. We’re using world-class technology from the industrial side and academic side for water treatment. It will be really exciting to see how far we can advance the technology in the next few years. Going from how technology works in a lab to implementing it in real life situations is the most interesting part of innovation for me.

Humans of Alberta Innovation: Allan Chegus

Take a look at the people behind the research, product, company or groundbreaking discovery. The ASTech Foundation’s Humans of Alberta Innovation campaign shows a new side to Alberta’s fascinating innovation community — the human one.

Allan Chegus is the president and CEO of 2015 Stream Systems Ltd., which won the 2016 Outstanding Science and Technology Start-up Award. Stream Systems’ technology identifies and solves optimization issues by replacing expensive custom models with a business solution that can be created five to ten times faster than the models.

Our world is a series of systems

Back in the ‘80s when I started working in oil and gas, it was very rudimentary.  PCs were just coming in, it was simple stuff.  Data was scattered and incomplete.  I did a lot of operational engineering work, and I got into controls engineering and control systems.  We started looking at the logic behind how the systems worked.  And I got really interested; this is very cool stuff!

I became a consultant later in my career and soon realized that organizations weren’t thinking about or solving problems in a holistic way. Decisions were siloed within groups or departments, rather than with the understanding of how it would impact the organization as a whole. I realized that what was needed was the application of systems thinking to understand operational networks differently. And, this needed to be done in a way that facilitated experimentation to arrive at the best outcome.

What I imagined was a creative tool that enabled the user to see how operational decisions impacted networks as a system, but that also allowed them to experiment with new ways of operating. The technology couldn’t support the ideas yet, but we could conceive it, understand it and think about how it might work.

Today, the tool and technology have reached convergence with the need because we have so much capacity and speed.  So now it’s limited by our creativity.  How do we put the algorithms and the software together to replicate the real world?

This is why modelling is so important. The technology at Stream Systems takes our collective experiences and puts it together with algorithms and systems that make sense. It’s a single model for finance, operational, environmental, human behaviour, business rules and quality information.  Then you throw scenarios at it to understand if we run this scenario, how does it impact the entire organization?

It takes away from individual understanding and creates a cohesive, collective understanding.  Getting access to information is important; getting access to information in real time is crucial.  The human will always make the final call, but the machine is great at crunching a lot of information to identify all the alternatives.

As the world gets more connected and more complex, we need tools to help us understand what is even possible. As humans, we need to understand how to deal with that complexity.  Our brains are wired for pattern recognition, not data crunching.

Our world is a series of systems. Systems thinking is becoming more prevalent, and it’s driven through our education system.  At engineering school, I learned to decompose the problem, get it down to its elements, and solve those problems.  The assumption was when you add it all up again, it solves all the problems, but I realized it didn’t. I know if we shift technology to a systems-based approach, then each system is impacting part of the bigger picture.

Since we started Stream Systems, my world has completely changed.  As an entrepreneur, I am consumed by my work; it becomes everything you are and everything you do.  It’s also opened my eyes to what’s really possible. I look back on the concept now and it was so limited. Now I see it’s only limited by imagination.  We are now solving problems with Stream that industries have grappled with for decades, and we are solving them on almost a weekly basis.  That’s how revolutionary this is.

I’m trying to get people to understand anything is possible, but the biggest challenge is disbelief.  Change is difficult.

When we started Stream, it was about changing oil and gas, and then we realized it was about transforming human thinking. Very philosophical, but not very practical.  So, we said let’s create software to show people how this can be applied. That lead us into mining, mass transit, the power grid and hard-to-decipher government policies.  These are all examples of systems thinking.

So here we are in Calgary, with our little company, 18-20 people.  We do expect to scale up quite quickly, and we expect to go far beyond Calgary. It’s all based on ‘Let’s take this philosophy to the world, and help the world be a better place.’ Sometimes it doesn’t go as fast as you’d like.  The real world meets your desire with limited resources.

If you think you’ve got a better idea, pursue it. As Canadians, we don’t have enough entrepreneurs. We have smart people and the physical resources, so what is holding us back? It’s our willingness to take risks, to be the first.  That’s what we should believe as a Canadian culture. Take a leap of faith.

Humans of Alberta Innovation: Kim Sturgess

Take a look at the people behind the research, product, company or groundbreaking discovery. The ASTech Foundation’s Humans of Alberta Innovation campaign shows a new side to Alberta’s fascinating innovation community — the human one.

Kim Sturgess won the 2015 Outstanding Contribution to Alberta Science and Technology Community Award for her work as CEO of Alberta WaterSMART. Through the company’s projects, she makes it her business to know how to effectively manage water across a wide range of scenarios.

Water knows no boundaries or politics

Always default to curiosity. Water is one of the most fascinating and mysterious molecules in the universe, not to mention being essential to life here on earth.

People in the water industry usually have a passion for spending time by lakes and rivers and oceans. I grew up beside lakes and moved to PEI, living beside the ocean. Today I’m near Alberta’s majestic rivers, lakes and glaciers. This will be my 27th year camping beside the mighty Athabasca River for our summer vacation, and water is a big part of my life.

I’ve always spent time wondering, and I’ve always been interested in the environmental side of business and engineering. How we view water in a sustainable economy became a passion, as did bringing environmental and business challenges together and managing them as one.

I look at myself as a simplifier. At WaterSMART Solutions we like everyone to understand. We create and share tools to enable constructive conversations to take place. Some of our most important work is getting people on the same page, through a shared understanding, rather than arguing facts. This is when you can build a constructive conversation, where people truly share differences on issues, be it through values or perspectives or knowledge, and that’s what I like most about what we do. We take positional conversations about water and make them collaborative.

It’s also incredibly fun to go to work every day and do something you’re passionate about. One of the biggest things for me is the WaterSMART team’s passion for what they do. That’s a real joy.

People have different attitudes and needs when it comes to water, but water knows no boundaries or politics. Nor can a silver bullet solve all its challenges everywhere. This is why water is so perfect for curious people; it’s always on the move and always challenging you to find answers.

New Sign Boosts Promotion of Alberta Innovation

2016 ASTech AwardsAt ASTech our mission is to identify and celebrate outstanding achievements in science and technology in Alberta. We accomplish this through our many events, which are only possible because of our generous Sustaining Members.

Increasing awareness of Alberta innovation is a big part of how we celebrate science and technology through our annual ASTech Awards and NextGen Innovators Showcase. In order to support our mission, we recently installed a brand new sign in the Innovate Calgary building.

The sign features information about the ASTech Foundation, our  ASTech Award winners, and our Sustaining Members. Placed in the heart of the Innovate Calgary lobby it will be seen by hundreds of innovators and industry professionals every day, and will increase awareness around Alberta’s innovation leaders.