1999 Winner: Outstanding Contribution To The Alberta Science And Technology Community
1999 marks Eric Newell’s tenth anniversary as CEO of Syncrude Canada and his fifth anniversary as its Chairman. Throughout this decade of leading Syncrude, the world’s largest oil sands production facility, he has contributed greatly to Alberta’s science and technology community through direct investment in R&D, the development of academic and research partnerships and the advancement of education. Under Eric Newell’s leadership, Syncrude’s direct research and development spending now exceeds $30 million per year. He opened the Syncrude Research Centre in Edmonton, which now employs 100 scientists and technologists. Among Syncrude’s 3,500 employees, 600 have university degrees and 180 have graduate level degrees.
Recognizing that Syncrude faced scientific challenges that would need a critical mass of talent and answers to questions in basic science, he forged several partnerships within the community. He set up a unique relationship with the University of Alberta, the NSERC Industrial Research Chair in Oil Sands, in which facilities and resources are shared so that student researchers work on projects within Syncrude, and Syncrude employees teach university courses. The joint program has made significant advances in pre-commercial science, developed new technologies and expanded research opportunities for students and faculty.
He was also instrumental in establishing CONRAD: The Canadian Oil Sands Network for Research and Development and SMART, an organization dedicated to developing a co-ordinated approach to environmental and technology issues faced by the mining industry. Through Eric Newell’s leadership, education has been advanced at every level. He was founder of the CAREERS foundation, which exposes young people to experiences and education that develop their career skills. In 1998 alone, more than 13,000 young Albertans participated. Mr. Newell has led the creation of more than 200 educational opportunities for Syncrude employees and community members including diploma programs, industry-wide seminars and business literacy courses. He also serves on the board of many institutions that are crucial to the development of science in Alberta, including the University of Alberta, the Conference Board of Canada and the Alberta Economic Development Authority.