1994: Breakthroughs

In 1994, a pivotal year in technological advancement and innovation, the World Wide Web emerged, reshaping the landscape of technology and business for years to come.

Meanwhile, the ASTech Awards celebrated outstanding achievements across diverse fields, ranging from journalism to biotechnology and industrial research

Alberta Innovates

Medical researcher Dr. Lionel E. McLeod was recognized as an Alberta Pioneer in Science and Technology, for his visionary leadership and dedication to biomedical research and education. Dr. McLeod served as the first President of the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research (AHFMR) (which later became Alberta Innovates – Health Solutions), and was part of the team enabling the province to become a global leader in this space by facilitating the recruitment of renowned scientists, the training of thousands of investigators, and the establishment of world-class research groups and facilities in Edmonton and Calgary. Born in Wainwright, his career spanned roles such as Dean of Medicine at The University of Calgary and President of prestigious medical associations.

Winner for Outstanding Contribution To The Alberta Science And Technology CommunityDr. D. Robert Weir, Senior Vice- President of Sherritt made significant strides in advancing extractive metallurgy, and brought industry and government together in a research and development consortium known as Westaim Technologies Inc. On August 4, 1989 the Government of Canada, the Province of Alberta, and Sherritt Inc. announced the major collaboration that would take place over a five year period for research, development and commercialization of advanced industrial materials – which would include new state-of-the-art facilities and make it possible to recruit more than 100 new scientists, engineers and support personnel from 9 different countries. Dr Weir developed strong ties with the University of Alberta, and the University of Calgary, and in 1989, became a director of the Alberta Research Council (now Alberta Innovates).

Biomedical researcher Dr. Jerry H. Wang, winner for Outstanding Leadership In Alberta Science, became renowned for his groundbreaking research in enzymology, particularly in signal transduction mechanisms. At The University of Calgary since 1982, his work on calmodulin’s calcium-binding activity significantly advanced our understanding of intracellular processes. He held pivotal roles establishing the Cell Regulation Research Group and coordinating a Signal Transduction research group.

Award winner for Journalism: Specialized Publications medical journalist Lois M. Hammond played a pivotal role in educating Albertans on the significance of medical research through her work as Communications Director of the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research (AHFMR) – (AHFMR later became Alberta Innovates – Health Solutions). Lois was instrumental in writing “The Power and The Promise” a publication that highlighted human biology, Alberta’s pioneering role in medical research, and its impact on health and the economy. It was distributed widely – including every junior and senior high school in the Province. Reaction was “phenomenal” – winning awards from professional public relations organizations, both nationally and internationally.

Dr. Clifton Shook, Winner of the Innovation In Oil Sands Research award and Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Saskatchewan, was recognized for his groundbreaking research in producing high-quality data describing pipeline operations that are fundamental to the field. His research led to big construction cost savings for Syncrude and Suncor by optimizing pipeline designs. The Canadian Society of Chemical Engineers also gave him the prestigious Century of Achievement Award. 

The Science Alberta Foundation (now known as MindFuel) won the award for Excellence In Science And Technology Public AwarenessMindfuel promotes science education, encouraging Albertans to pursue careers in science and technology. Champions of ‘hands-on, minds-on’ learning, the organization has enhanced science education through innovative and accessible means since being founded in Calgary in 1990. Presently, MindFuel is a leader in developing youth innovation talent through STEM programs for K-12 and collegiate youth populations. MindFuel has also won the ASTech 2014 Award for Excellence In Science And Technology Public Awareness.

Harding Instrument Company Ltd. award winner for Industrial Research (Northern Alberta Region), for their work designing an electrostatic imaging sensor for gas transmission. Founded by Professor Patrick Harding, as a University of Alberta spin-off, the company gained global recognition, with its products being marketed worldwide. Harding’s headquarters are in Edmonton and have now been in operations for over 55 years.

Bovine genetics innovator Alta Genetics Inc. was recognized for Outstanding Commercial Achievement in Alberta Science and Technology for enhancing the efficiency of milk and meat production. Based in Rocky View County, Alta Genetics started in the town of Balzac, and continues to serve an international market – solidifying its status as a world leader in genetic and reproductive programs to optimize herd performance. Alta Genetics Founder Doug Blair is a recipient of the Order of Canada and the Canadian Commemorative Medal for Outstanding Contribution to Canada. The company is now part of URUS, a global agriculture company.

Dr. Donald B. Robinson was recognized with the Outstanding Leadership In Alberta Technology for groundbreaking contributions to the understanding of hydrocarbons. The Peng-Robinson equation became the industry standard, revolutionizing oil and gas reservoir simulations, hydrocarbon processing, and pipeline flow simulations. Dr. Robinson applied his expertise commercially nurturing a team of world-wide experts through DBR Group of Companies, which was acquired by Schlumberger in 2002. Former Chairman of the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Alberta, Dr. Robinson won many honours.

1994’s Other Winners Include:

Mr. Arthur Heller, winner Journalism: General Public, developed Science, Technology and Society, a seven-part series of fifteen-minute video programs that provide real-life examples of complex topics. Produced through Access TV’s Edmonton facility, the series is aimed at senior high school students, although the topics covered are also of interest to more general audiences. Among the issues explored are how scientific knowledge develops, and the influence of society on scientific and technology research.

Winner of Outstanding Commercial Achievement in Alberta Science and Technology, Broadband equipment innovator IDACOM Telecom Divisiona division of Hewlett-Packard Canada, was recognized for its commercial achievement for its specialized high-performance protocol testing solutions. This homegrown Alberta company grew from technology originally developed by AGT (Alberta Government Telephones) Limited (now Telus) – and in 1993 had revenues exceeding $30 million.

New Era Systems Services Ltd., was recognized for Innovation in Industrial Research(Southern Region). This Calgary company’s flagship product HARBOR, allowed automatic backup without the need for a mainframe – advancing the management of data and security solutions. New Era Systems Services Ltd. was later acquired by Interlink Computer Sciences in 1997.

1993: Keeping Pace

In 1993, Alberta’s research and technology arms were keeping pace with the world, with breakthroughs in infectious disease research, parallel computation, and remote field technology where recognized by the ASTech Awards.

Dr. D. Lorne Tyrrell was recognized for Outstanding Leadership in Alberta Science in 1993 for his work in Infectious Disease Research. Dr. Tyrrell found clues while teaching a graduate course at the University of Alberta that lead to the discovery of an antiviral therapy for chronic hepatitis B, a virus that affects over 300 million people world wide. Dr. Tyrrell has since been inducted in the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame.

Joining the University of Calgary in 1981, Dr. Nigg built a premier biomechanics research center, leveraging his expertise across Medicine, Engineering, and Physical Education. His pioneering work spans the design of sports shoes, optimization of floor surfaces, enhancement of amputee children’s gait, and analysis of biomechanical stress on the human body. Dr. Nigg is the founder and chief science officer of Biomechanigg – a multidisciplinary group of specialists who concentrate on research related to movement, exercise and sport. Dr Nigg was awarded the Outstanding Leadership In Alberta Science.

The Time Warp or Optimistic Synchronization technology was a major breakthrough in parallel computation and the impetus for Jade, a computer simulation company launched by Dr. Brian Unger, for which he won the Outstanding Leadership in Alberta Technology award. Dr. Unger, a Professor Emeritus for the University of Calgary, continued to play an important role in Alberta’s research community, and founding president of the Netera Alliance, now called Cybera Inc, a consortium that builds cyberinfrastructure to support research and organizations in Alberta.

Dr. Harry Emmet Gunning received an award for Outstanding Contribution To The Alberta Science And Technology Community. A pillar in education and research and a distinguished career spanning Harvard University and the National Research Council of Canada. He played a pivotal role in advancing the University of Alberta’s Department of Chemistry, and in 1974 became the President of the university. He spearheaded the Edmonton Research Development Park Authority and has received honours such as the Order of Canada and Province of Alberta Achievement Awards.

Today the Edmonton Research Park continues to support innovation through the presence and collaboration of community builders and entrepreneurs such as Innotech Alberta (formerly Alberta Research Council), C-FERSyncrude ResearchERPBCIntellimediaClinisysFrontechBiostreamQuantiam TechnologiesATC, and more. ASTech Award winning companies from the research park have included: APINanopreciseNTwistNanospeed DiagnosticsMicrolyne, and Zedi.

Russell Technologies Inc won the Achievement in Alberta Science and Technology award for their Industrial Research, specifically for Filling the Market Void for Pipeline Inspection Tools. The Russell team specialize in Remote Field Technology, for assessing tubes, pipelines and plate. Since 1993, this Edmonton based company has continued to expand and develop, and now offer inspections for pipes, tanks, pressure vessels and towers, and own more than 8 patents for technology that it has developed. Now known as Russell NDE Systems Inc, they work with global partners – and have been recognized by the ASTech awards again in 2001 and beyond.

Dr. Raymond Lemieux, a native of Lac la Biche, and a researcher at the University of Alberta was the 1993 Winner: Alberta Pioneer in Science and Technology, celebrated for synthesizing sucrose and pioneering scientific research in Alberta, earned 14 honorary degrees and numerous awards, including the inaugural NSERC Gold Medal. He founded three companies –R&L Molecular Research in 1963, Raylo Chemical in 1966 and Chembiomed Ltd. in 1977 – and significantly contributed to Alberta’s research-intensive industry, with over 200 publications and 28 patents. Lemieux’s extensive achievements are commemorated by awards including the Order of Canada, a biography, and his active engagement in academia and industry beyond retirement.

Dr. Jacob Masliyah, winner of Innovation In Oil Sands Research, was pivotal to the oil sands industry through his research in fluid-particle mechanics. His Extraction Simulation Model was crucial for the Syncrude Expansion Project and informed the design of other facilities. Beyond his technical contributions, Dr. Masliyah has enriched the scientific community with over 150 publications, participated in numerous committees, and received multiple awards for his excellence in teaching and service. Jacob’s work has greatly contributed to the University of Alberta, which awarded him its highest award: the J. Gordin Kaplan Award.

1993’s Other Winners Include:

CS Resources Limited was awarded the Outstanding Commercial Achievement in Alberta Science and Technology (>25M). CS Resources Limited emerged as a leading player in resource exploration, leveraging horizontal production techniques and innovative technologies, the company achieved impressive oil production rates surpassing 8,000 barrels per day, a feat unattainable through conventional methods at that time. CS Resources was acquired Pan Canadian Petroleum (now Cenovus) in 1997.

As a communications officer at Mount Royal College (now Mount Royal University), Rae Haaland, the 1993 Award for Journalism: Specialized Publications, highlighted science illiteracy in Canada through her piece “Another Science Story” in the bi-monthly magazine Imprint. Her work, aiming to shed light on efforts by Alberta’s educational and scientific institutions to address this issue, garnered positive feedback from both individuals and organizations within the scientific community.

As a CFRN Eye Witness News reporter in Edmonton, Michelle Renne Jones was the 1993 ASTech Award Winner for Journalism: General Public for her work preparing a series of in-depth medical features. The specific objective was to explain the relevance of medical breakthroughs to the general public. Her interviews – all conducted with Albertans and all discussing Alberta research projects – were aired to an enthusiastic response from viewers.

Malibu Engineering Ltd earned an ASTech Award in 1993 for Innovation in Industrial Research. Honoured for developing a tool known as Tally-Ho. This bright idea enabled on-site crews to measure racks of drilling pipe or casing by means of frequency modulation, using laser technology.

Valmet Automation, winner of Outstanding Commercial Achievement in Alberta Science and Technology, specialized in turnkey open architecture control and information systems to monitor and control pipeline operations. Built its reputation on supervisory control and data acquisition systems – SCADA, and OASyS® at the time a new operating system, designed and developed in Calgary. (Now under the name AVEVA Enterprise SCADA a leading Pipeline Management System).

1993 Winner for Industrial Research, Z.I. Probes for products that electronically measured temperature and pressure in oil and gas wells. The Edmonton company’s highly sophisticated probe incorporates advanced software and electronics, resulting in superior levels of accuracy, resolution and reliability. In developing the instrument, Z.I. Probes Inc. has performed advanced research in power consumption, sensor technology and associated analog instrumentation.

1992: ASTech Awards expanded

ASTech Awards expanded in 1992, with awards in leadership, for wireless technology, product creation, and involvement in biochemistry and agriculture.
Taylor, Dr. Richard E., for being an Alberta Pioneer in Science and Technology. This native of Medicine Hat was the first Canadian to win a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1990. Taylor attended the University of Alberta (BS, MSc). This experience prompted his pursuit of a Ph.D. at Stanford University. Renowned for experiments confirming quarks’ existence, the sub-atomic particles forming the basis of 99 percent of all matter on Earth.
Butler, Dr. Roger received the Innovation In Oil Sands Research Sponsored By Syncrude Canada Ltd. Dr. Roger Butler was instrumental in making in situ bitumen recovery possible, designing both the Cyclic Steam Stimulation (CSS) at Imperial Oil and Steam-Assisted Gravity Drainage (SAGD) with Imperial and AOSTRA, enhancing Alberta’s oil sands as a crucial petroleum energy source.
Dr. Leonard T. Bruton, a professor from the University of Calgary, earned an ASTech Award for Outstanding Leadership in Alberta Science for his groundbreaking work in voice and data transmission technology, building filters used world-wide to limit the bandwidth transmitted and received.
Dr. Lawrence Wang won his award for Outstanding Leadership In Alberta Technology for creating an energy bar that fights the effects of Hypothermia. The ‘Canadian Cold Buster’ bar was initially designed as a fast and efficient way for Canadian soldiers to fight off hypothermia – would become one of the first energy bars on the market.
SMART Technologies Inc. for Industrial Research for developing interactive solutions like the SMART interactive whiteboard. As of today, they have been in operation for over 30 years, and now SMART provides integrated solutions of software, hardware, training, and services that are designed for performance and ease of use.
Sherritt Gordon Limited (now Sherritt) for Outstanding Leadership In Alberta Science for creating and supplying the metals used in the Canadian Dollar Coins “Loonies”. Sherritt continues to be a world leader in the mining and refining of nickel and cobalt. Its Technologies Group creates innovative, proprietary solutions for oil and mining companies worldwide.
Lowey, Mr. Mark for Journalism: Specialized Publications, for contributing to science journalism. In a special section of the October 20, 1991, Calgary Herald that saluted Science and Technology Week, he contributed stories on science and technology activities and personalities in Alberta. He is now the Managing Director of Research Money Inc., among other freelance work.
Dr. Robert Church was recognized for his Outstanding Contribution To The Alberta Science And Technology Community. From being the founding Head of the Department of Medical Biochemistry at the University of Calgary to his research impacting Canada’s agricultural sector, helping start 11 companies
Biomira inc. won the award Outstanding Commercial Achievement in Alberta Science and Technology (Sales less than 25 million) for specializing in distinct cancer research, later acquired by Cascadian Therapeutics Inc. in 2016, and is now under the umbrella.

1991: Breadth of Innovation

1991’s ASTech Winners show the breadth of innovation in Alberta, focused on airborne monitoring, laser technology, and advancements in space science. Here are the 1991 winners:

In 1991, ITRES Research received the Industrial Research award for its innovative casi instrument, revolutionizing environmental management. The casi instrument, vital for environmental monitoring, forestry, and resource management, was developed with the assistance of Darren Cosandier. Cosandier produced software to geocode data from the casi instrument, enabling its transformation onto a map grid. ITRES continues their high tech research in commercial airborne remote sensing.

Dr. Leroy Cogger, the 1991 winner of Outstanding Leadership in Alberta Science, played a crucial role in advancing the University of Calgary’s Space Science programs. His leadership in projects like Canada’s ISIS-2 satellite significantly contributed to our understanding of auroral and ionospheric phenomena. The Space Science Group’s reputation was further enhanced with the development and successful operation of a novel Ultraviolet camera that was flown on the Swedish Viking satellite in 1986.

Dr. John Tulip‘s 1991 award for Outstanding Leadership in Alberta Technology celebrates his groundbreaking contributions to Laser Technology Innovation. Beginning his journey at the University of Alberta’s Department of Electrical Engineering in the late 1960s, he and Dr. H.J.J. Seguin established a renowned laser laboratory. To facilitate the transfer of his technology, Tulip helped found Boreal Laser Inc., known for its Enhanced Sensing Element, widely utilized for precise gas concentration measurements in industrial settings.  Boreal Laser continues to expand and seeks new talent.

1991 ASTech Award Winners include:

  • Dr. Clement Willis Bowman recognized for Outstanding Contribution To The Alberta Science And Technology Community. He was the former president and Chief Executive Officer of the Alberta Research Council and had a career spanning 36 years in both the public and private sectors. Mr. Bowman received the Order of Canada.
  • Axion Spatial Imaging Ltd. recognized for Industrial Research – Solution To Tracking Mobile Assets creating a hardware and software system solution to track helicopters, aircraft, ships and land vehicles using Global Positioning Systems (GPS).
  • INTERA Information Technologies Corp. winner for Commercial Achievement in Alberta Science and Technology. Their products cover a wide range of applications and markets, from petroleum software to Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

Celebrating 35 Years in Alberta Innovation: 1990

In 1990, innovation included the expansion of landline telephone networks, improvements in infrastructure for mobile telecommunications, and the early stages of transitioning towards digital communication technologies, setting the stage for future years. Notably, the world standard for broadband wireless was set, which would be key in future developments.

ASTech Awards – 1990 Winners: Then and Now

Mr. Eric A. Geddes the 1990 Winner for Outstanding Contribution To The Alberta Science And Technology Community. Mr. Geddes a distinguished alumni of the University of Alberta was a key figure in Alberta’s economic development, and significantly contributed to various community roles. As Chairman of the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research (1980-1990), he oversaw a substantial increase in funding, elevating Alberta’s status in medical research. As well, under his leadership, the Edmonton Research Park flourished into a thriving technology community. Mr Geddes was awarded the Order of Canada.

Today the Edmonton Research Park continues to support innovation through the presence and collaboration of community builders and entrepreneurs such as Innotech Alberta(formerly Alberta Research Council) , C-FERSyncrude Research,ERPBCIntellimediaClinisysFrontechBiostreamQuantiam TechnologiesATC, and more. ASTech Award winning companies from the research park have included: API,NanopreciseNTwistNanospeed DiagnosticsMicrolyne, and Zedi.

Established in 1986, B & W Technologies (founded by Cody Slater) pioneered gas monitoring devices for the oil industry, revolutionizing safety standards. In 1990, B & W Technologies, won the award for Commercial Achievement in reaching a Global Market. 

Acquired by Honeywell in 2006, now known as BW Technologies, they lead the global market in gas detection technology, ensuring safety across industries worldwide. Their innovative range of products remains compact, user-friendly, and cost-effective, setting the standard for hazardous environment safety. 

Today Mr. Slater is CEO of Calgary’s Blackline Safety.

Dr. Ronald G. Micetich, recipient of the 1990 Award for Alberta Science and Technology, spearheaded groundbreaking International Pharmaceutical Collaboration. With a PhD in Chemistry from the University of Saskatchewan, Micetich initiated a career in Pharmaceutical Research, cultivating partnerships with industry leaders like Taiho Pharmaceutical Company in Japan. This collaboration led to the establishment of Taiho Pharmaceuticals and Synphar Laboratories in Alberta.

In 1999, Micetich founded NAEJA Pharmaceutical, Edmonton, focused on combating drug-resistant bacteria. Alongside his innovative research, Dr. Micetich served as an adjunct professor at the University of Alberta, sharing his expertise with aspiring scientists.

ASTech Spotlight: Community Builder – NABI

ASTech Community Builder, NABI (Northern Alberta Business Incubator), was established by the City of St. Albert in 1989 and, like the ASTech Awards, is marking 35 years of innovation! It provides vital support, education, and mentorship to early-stage businesses, fostering their launch, growth, and long-term success.

Notably, NABI has nurtured two past ASTech winners: Wilson Analytical Services Inc. and Sarcomere Dynamics.

Having played a pivotal role in fostering entrepreneurship and innovation, NABI has graduated over 650 member businesses and assisted more than 3,000 entrepreneurs, with 80% of its alumni companies sustaining operations for over 5 years. This success has injected over $500 million into the local economy.

Currently supporting 90 active member companies, NABI aims for further expansion to nurture more budding entrepreneurs. Through its programs and services, early-stage businesses can thrive in an environment conducive to growth and innovation.

1989: Founding of the ASTech Awards

By the late 1980s, provincial and federal governments had made many significant investments in Alberta post-secondaries – to attract and support researchers that would further discovery, and collaborate with industry to enable innovation through technology commercialization – resulting in economic diversification. Advancements were made throughout the fields of energy, life and health sciences, agriculture, geoscience, digital innovation and more – but these individual achievements often did not make front-page news on their own.


Driven Albertan professionals saw an opportunity to create momentum – and formed a supportive innovation community comprised of industry, government, academia, entrepreneurs, and champions. Edmonton had just held an inspiring science and technology gala in 1988 – seeding an opportunity to support the growth of the tech sector through the visibility that celebration can bring. This motivated the creation of the ASTech Awards in 1989 by community members including Martin Kratz, KC, a prominent Calgary lawyer, and KPMG representatives like Peter Kinash.

Today, 35 years later, the ASTech Awards continues to bring together the innovation community to celebrate the impact made possible through the collaboration of industry, government, academia, entrepreneurs, and community champions. The momentum that this and other initiatives have created, has helped develop Alberta’s thriving tech sector and innovation-fueled economy. Shared Success, Best of All Worlds.

2021 ASTech Award Nominations Now Open

ASTech Award nominations now open 

  As we emerge from the darkness of 2020, the innovation ecosystem in Alberta craves INSPIRATION!

We’re all looking for the encouragement to persevere. A reason to invest, And motivation to succeed.

     That’s why celebrating stories of success is so important! it proves that turning a brilliant idea into worldwide success is absolutely possible in Alberta. But seeing others succeed, learning from their experiences and capitalizing on their contacts elevates the innovation ecosystem in Alberta. Whether you are an entrepreneur, a woman, a researcher or an innovator, we celebrate your success.

     Nominations open March 1 through May 31, 2021. Finalists are announced in June and awards presented in October.

  If you or someone you know had a banner year in 2020, then get ready to submit your ASTech Award nomination. Deadline is May 31, 2021.

Second Edition of Coronavirus-Inspired E-Book Now Out

11 Months of Inspired Thinking 2020/21

As the world faces down the COVID-19 pandemic, innovation in Alberta has never been more powerful.

Researchers and entrepreneurs are answering the call and finding ways to adapt, overcome, support and develop important solutions.

The ASTech Foundation has compiled an e-book of more than 90 of these stories, including 12 new stories, covering March 2020 through January 2021. Get inspired by our homegrown innovation in the lab and on the street in Coronavirus-Inspired Alberta Innovation.

Download the free 2nd Edition e-book.

Do you have a story that should be added to the next edition? Send us a note to

Dr. Robert I. Thompson named ASTech Board Chair

University of Calgary Associate Vice-President (Research) and Director of Research Services Dr. Robert Thompson has been elected Chair of the ASTech Foundation for 2021.

“I have a clear vision for the important role ASTech should play to inspire innovators in Alberta,” said Dr. Thompson. “In addition to our annual Awards program, which recognizes outstanding achievement, ASTech promotes those success stories at home and abroad to inspire Albertans to transform their futures and attract outside investors to explore important opportunities in Alberta.”

Dr. Thompson joined the Board in 2018. He views 2021 as a “bridging year” for ASTech, to move toward more robust promotion and communication of ASTech Awards alumni and their success by 2022. ASTech has honoured more than 600 laureates since 1989.

Recent ASTech Award winners include:

  • Dr. Pere Santamaria, whose company Parvus Therapeutics signed a $1 billion deal in 2019 to develop and commercialize new drugs for autoimmune disease.
  • Dr. Lori West, whose seminal work in organ transplantation has led to policy changes for paediatric donor allocation around the world.
  • Interface Fluidics, a laboratory service company with a nanotechnology platform for optimizing oil production and visualizing fluid interactions through rapid chemical testing at reservoir temperature and pressure. Interface raised $4.5million USD in Series A funding in 2019.

The ASTech Foundation recognizes, celebrates and grows the culture of innovation in Alberta by highlighting the work of ASTech Awards alumni. The ASTech Awards honour Alberta’s brightest minds and their greatest achievements in the innovation ecosystem. Winners of the 2021 ASTech Awards will be announced in October 2021.

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.


Redesigned awards honour Alberta economic drivers

The ASTech Awards have a new twist in 2018!  In keeping with the spirit of inspiring innovation, the Award program was redesigned to better reflect the work and accomplishments that drive the economy in Alberta and across Canada.

Two awards were reconfigured and one new award was added to the lineup.

  • – The Science award has become Outstanding Achievement in Science and Engineering to reflect the importance of engineering activities in our daily lives.
  • – The Oil Sands Research Award has become the Outstanding Achievement in Energy and Environmental Innovation Award sponsored by Syncrude Canada Ltd.  to capture the breadth and depth of achievement in the energy industry.
  • – The Health Innovation Award has been added to honour leadership in the health and medical fields.

In total, 10 awards will be presented in October, representing outstanding achievement in science and technology across the innovation spectrum.

Nominations now open for 2018 ASTech Awards

Alberta’s innovation awards, the ASTech Awards, are now accepting nominations in 10 categories.  Awards will be announced October 26, 2018 in Edmonton.

By becoming an ASTech Award Winner, you and your organization will join the ranks of over 500 high achievers in the science and technology innovation ecosystem recognized for their leadership in Alberta since 1989.

The benefits of winning an ASTech award are significant:

  • Peer and sector recognition and visibility to a wider audience;
  • A morale boost for employees, investors, business partners and other stakeholders who are recognized for outstanding achievement;
  • Credibility enhancement that helps with financing, customer relationships and top talent recruitment;
  • Profile through ASTech communications channels, the media and the Alumni Speaker’s Bureau; and
  • Five sponsored awards also include a cash prize of $10,000.

Nominations for the 2018 ASTech Awards close May 31st.  Nominations are subject to third-party adjudication by a panel of industry experts who select Winners and Finalists that exceed the strict criteria for each award.

Learn more about the awards here. To submit a nomination, click here.

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.

ASN’s remarkable impact of ‘Scientists and Engineers-in-the-Classroom’

Seeing eyes light up as eager Grade 3 students learn about material properties and engineering principles is what it’s all about for the Alberta Science Network’s Scientists and Engineers-in-the-Classroom program. John Whitbread, P. Eng, an electrical engineer at General Dynamics, made engineering fun and practical recently during a presentation to the young students at Calgary’s West Springs School. Alberta Science Network (ASN) was awarded the 2016 ASTech Excellence in Science and Technology Public Awareness Award.

From teaching the basics of the material properties of common building materials to testing the strongest shapes for a paper structure, Whitbread guided the class from what they knew to what they could do with their new knowledge.

“I always try to include a project that demands teamwork and creates some tension,” said Whitbread, “especially the potential of failure. As we know, failure is the greatest teacher and it creates opportunities to teach, especially on an individual level.”

Given the task to support a book 12-inches off the table using only paper and tape, the students jumped at the opportunity to use fundamental engineering principles of design and testing to create structures out of the flimsy paper. Just as in everyday engineering, sometimes through testing the designs needed to be changed.

As the students constructed their paper structures to support the weight of a textbook, a few students realized what they had planned on paper wasn’t going to work in practice. Despite the obstacles, the students were undeterred. From the paper that crumpled, new sturdier cylinder supports were formed.

Whitbread explained, “One of the biggest impacts I see is a change in willingness of students to try and a certain comfort with failing while the teachers learn to allow the students to fail gracefully.”

The key, for Whitbread, is to engage the students with enthusiasm, know when to move from discussion to the fun of building, and let the students and teacher support the guided presentation.

“Most importantly, bring the topic down to their level,” Whitbread added.

Whitbread said the most rewarding moment as a volunteer comes when he sees a student really enjoying the experience. Through the different ASN programs, over 65 000 students per year participated in hands-on learning with experts across the province.

“More than any organization I’ve worked with, ASN provides both the guidance and the freedom to create opportunities for those moments to happen. When a student turns to me and says, ‘I love this!’ or ‘this is the best day of school ever!’, I know I’m participating in something very worthwhile,” said Whitbread.

For the teachers, it is invaluable to have an expert from the field enter the classroom and demonstrate the real-world application of the lessons they teach. The goal of the ASN program is to make science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) both hands-on and expert driven.

The teachers said the expertise an engineer brings to the classroom provides the opportunity for engaging and authentic learning for both the teachers and the students, who are filled with questions and eager to further explore the concepts.

Thanks to the work of professional volunteers like Whitbread, ASN is helping inspire young minds to engage in STEM learning and appreciate careers in STEM.

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.

Humans of Alberta Innovation: Dr. Mayank Goyal

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. Mayank Goyal won the 2016 Outstanding Leadership in Alberta Technology Award for improving the outcome of stroke patients. His latest innovations, the multiphase computed tomography angiogram (mCTA) and the Brisk Recanalization Ischemic Stroke Kit (BRISK), are vastly improving stroke treatment.

I was always a science and technology kid

Innovation does not happen overnight. Over the last 10 to 12 years, I have focused my life on producing the research into how the brain vessels work, and then how to optimize diagnoses, workflow, procedures and how to open the vessel fast.

We work to improve patient outcomes. One of the big limitations was the imaging. You do a CT scan to figure out if the patient is having a stroke and to find the blockage. It was taking too long. I was struggling to come up with an idea to make the imaging procedure faster, and make it easier for residents and fellows in training to diagnose things faster. That’s when I came up with the multi-phase CTA. It was implemented in some of the largest trials around the world and has been used in at least 50 centres. The old method would sometimes take upwards of 20 to 40 minutes to diagnose a stroke. At our facility, we can get the imaging done and have a diagnosis in about five minutes. It makes it very easy to make a decision and move on to the next step.

Our team is focused on making stroke care better around the world. Recently I was in Australia and I went to eight different centres to help them optimize their stroke care. Last week I was in India. That ability to influence change around the world through research and innovation is a very satisfying part of my life.

I was always a science and technology kid. To come up with relevant and useful ideas, it took years and years of experience and understanding of the subject, identifying a problem, and coming up with a solution. I tell my students, “if you want to do it the easy stuff and come up with the structure of an atom, you needed to be born 200 years ago. All the easy stuff has been done.” We are left with the not-so-easy stuff.

When I was in medical school, I was most interested in the brain. I felt like it was the last frontier, in which we have the least amount of understanding. I was inspired by my peers, who shared the same passion. We have a super strong group on the stroke team, and I’m proud to be part of it. We all push each other, and all perform at a very high level. Building the right team and surrounding yourself with intelligent people who are passionate about the same things is a really important part of success.

Humans of Alberta Innovation: Dr. Christian Jacob

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. Christian Jacob is the director of the LINDSAY Virtual Human Project, which won the 2015 Innovation in Information and Communications Technology Award. The LINDSAY team uses virtual imaging technologies to help teach human anatomy in new and exciting ways.

I’m Not a Typical Computer Scientist 

Growing up, I wanted to become a Latin teacher. I liked Latin as a very algorithmic language, almost mathematical.

I moved to Calgary in two stages. In 1996, I was looking for someone working in plant simulation because I did my PhD in plant growth programs. We would see how a tree grows, or how the petals fall off flowers and then combine it with an evolutionary program. I connected with a graphics prof at the University of Calgary and that brought me here as a post doctoral fellow. Then, the computer science department had openings which brought me to U of C in 1999 as an assistant professor. I was just going to try it out for two or three years to see how I liked it. I really liked the university and the colleagues; it was a young department and I found some good research projects. That’s why I stayed and why I’m still here.

I’m not a typical computer scientist; I’ve always looked at the computer as a think tool and nothing more. I was first interested in biology because of the brain. I did my diploma thesis on building artificial neural networks. I wanted to know how neurons work, how the brain works and how much of this can be transferred to computers as think tools, to help classify patterns and understand speech.

Eventually I got into simulating immune systems. Suddenly I was inside the body and looking at physiology and how the immune system reacts to viruses and bacteria. Then an offer came to start this LINDSAY Virtual Human Project which led me to work with medical students and researchers.

I’m a very graphical person: I must see and illustrate things. The constant development of technology has always fueled my interest in computer science. It went from different user interfaces where there’s just a mouse and a keyboard to touch screens and portable iPads that could react to my input.

When we ventured into 3D, we could put these augmented reality glasses on. Now we can literally enter digital worlds; and bring virtual worlds, that are trapped behind the screen, into the real world and combine them. All this technology innovation helped create the things I only imagined we could do a few years earlier.

With the LINDSAY Virtual Human Project, there’s always an opportunity to build the next prototype. Suddenly I had a project that was integrated into a medical school, and I had to really pay attention to the details regarding medical education, human physiology and anatomy. It’s still being used to train medical students at U of C, which is really cool. I also get to work with a lot of awesome people from other disciplines outside of computer science, including medical educators, physiologists, medical doctors, physicians and the artists and designers who make the program look good. That’s changed my life as a scientist, being on that inter-disciplinary side of computer science.

The Giant Walkthrough Brain added to that. Jay Ingram is a fabulous science communicator and working with him was a great experience. I had to rethink how to present content from a stage, not for an expert audience. Now we had to consider music, stage lighting, a script and we had to set up this giant walkthrough brain with hallways and signs, like a movie set. As a scientist, that was very exciting because I learned how to sell my science. We explained to people how the human brain works and then we told stories through the computer tool. This has changed my perspective on how to sell and promote science.

I’m excited to venture even more into story telling, especially around the human body; people learn well through stories. Now computer games are the vehicles to create engaging stories. In the end, I hope I can keep inspiring students.