Ross, Alastair In Memoriam

2003 Recipient: ASTech Special Award

Visionary Seeks Research as Solution to Long-term Alberta Prosperity

Alastair Ross was a visionary who understood long ago the need for Alberta to diversify its commodity-based economy into a knowledge-based economy. And he did something about it. Keenly interested in technology, Ross served on the boards of the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council, PreCarn, and Bell Canada Enterprises. He was a founding member and president of the Independent Petroleum Producers Association of Canada (IPAC) and founded the Canadian Energy Research Institute (CERI).

His in-depth knowledge of the energy industry coupled with his concern for Albertans led Ross in the late 1970s to worry about what would happen to Alberta when conventional oil reserves ran out. Alastair recognized the importance that technology played in the development and exploitation of oil and gas reserves and saw that opportunities existed to take this success and implement it in other areas. He also recognized a need to diversify Alberta’s economy into non-commodity activities that could compete globally and create wealth and new employment opportunities for Albertans. His solution was research.

He believed that bringing highly educated people to Alberta to engage in research, and then commercializing the technology that flowed from that research would generate the jobs and wealth needed to sustain and enhance the quality of life and opportunities for Albertans. Ross brought together a group of like-minded individuals, including Rod McDaniels, Norman Wagner, Don Harvie, George Cornish, and Fred Mannix Jr. Lead by Ross, they formed the Calgary Research and Development Authority (CR&DA – now Calgary Technologies Inc.) in 1981, a tri-partite initiative of the Chamber of Commerce, City of Calgary and the U of C. CR&DA’s mission was to attract and develop research and research related activities. When the energy sector collapsed in the early 1980s, Ross backed the creation of Canada’s first small business incubator dedicated to emerging technology enterprises.

Today, the Calgary Technologies incubator is Canada’s largest, most successful small business incubator. Alastair was the Chair of CR&DA/CTI for 15 years and remained an active member of CTI up to his death in 2002. In 2000, the Board recognized the tremendous contribution Alastair made to the community by naming CTI’s new and expanded incubator the Alastair Ross Technology Centre. His vision and focus has helped Alberta’s advanced technology sector grow significantly in the last 20 years. And it may be an ironic twist that the province’s advanced technology sector now rivals the size of the oil and gas sector, which has helped create a more diversified and balanced economy. Alastair Ross…dedicated, passionate, leader, founder, visionary and entrepreneur.