University of Calgary

The Holy Grail for Our Energy Future

Submitted by alumni on Wed, 04/12/2017 - 22:23.

The Holy Grail for Our Energy Future

Around the world, renewable energy industries may account for only a sliver of energy consumption — but they are growing. We check in with Ed McCauley, VP Research, to ask how UCalgary is powering that growth.
by Mark Witten

One of the greatest challenges in the 21st century is the transition to a climate-neutral energy system — and UCalgary is uniquely positioned to lead that transformation. Our energy research strategy, Energy Innovations for Today and Tomorrow, is the framework through which the university plans to achieve lasting economic and environmental benefits for Canada. We caught up with Ed McCauley, VP Research, to ask how his office is supporting entrepreneurial thinking, innovation and creative disruption in the key areas of clean technology and renewable energy:

Why is UCalgary focusing on clean-tech and renewable energy? Everyone understands the challenge in supplying a growing population with energy extracted using a much smaller environmental footprint. The challenge is so huge that there is not one magical solution or panacea. But our diversified research approach is creating new ways to unlock hydrocarbon resources with zero carbon emissions, bolster new techniques for increasing the energy from renewable sources and design new energy-conversion approaches to capture the carbon that’s already out there. Our partners from industry, government and other institutions have come together to create solutions that will affect real change.

What are the collaborative ways that are advancing entrepreneurial growth in these areas? One major vehicle that translates our discoveries into real-world solutions is the Global Research Initiative in Unconventional Hydrocarbon Resources. The project includes facilities and collaborations in China, Mexico, Israel and Canada, providing opportunities to test new ideas and apply new solutions at scales that will accelerate deployment and adoption by industries.

Our Canada First Excellence Research Fund program supports the Western Canadian node of that initiative, which includes partnerships that strengthen our entrepreneurial growth. We’ve teamed up with SAIT, which brings expertise in prototype design, optimization and scale-up as researchers are looking to test and validate technology, and with Innovate Calgary to provide tech-transfer, intellectual-property and business-incubator services. These partnerships support our researchers as they bridge the gap between discovery and innovation.

How has the arrival of leading nano-technology researcher Steven Bryant and the recent $75-million Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF) grant having an impact in advancing research and entrepreneurial innovations? This has given our research capacity a huge boost. Dr. Bryant brings a world-class suite of technological advances, and he’s also a leader in mobilizing research capacity across campus, integrating fundamental science research and engineering to solve our grand challenges.

This boost means that we’re making tremendous progress on solutions that will have long-term benefits for Canadians. We’re working with a broad range of partners to bring new technologies to market, with the goal of moving toward a low-carbon future.

What are some examples of commercialization that UCalgary is pursuing in the areas of clean-tech and renewable energy? We’ve embedded commercialization into the research process within our CFREF program. We have a technological assessment team who evaluate the potential of early stage research to increase the chance we'll end up with a competitive solution, and an energy technology accelerator team to advance tech with commercial potential. We’re also involved in a new initiative — the Kinetica innovation Centre (KICS) at SAIT, which is a facility and program that helps clean energy technology startups and researchers design, prototype and test their proprietary technologies. U

← Back to In the Field