Jan. 22, 2019

New workshop series aims to help commercialize energy research

UCalgary’s Global Research Initiative launches Energy Innovators for graduate students

What happens when we put 17 teams of graduate student energy innovators in a room with experts on technology commercialization? This winter, we’re going to find out.

Energy Innovators

On Jan. 16, UCalgary’s Global Research Initiative in Sustainable Low Carbon Unconventional Resources (GRI) launched a new workshop series aimed at equipping graduate students with the skills, insights and knowledge they need to develop and commercialize energy-related innovations.

The series, called Energy Innovators, includes six workshops and will culminate in a pitch competition on April 10 when eligible participants will compete for $100,000 in services to help them advance their projects. Prize services will include consultation, prototyping, knowledge transfer and commercialization services for the selected teams.

The series is designed to “foster, build, and reinforce entrepreneurial thinking in our graduate student and postdoctorate scholar researchers,” says Dr. Ian Gates, PhD, director, Global Research Initiative.

“We want to produce from the GRI a generation of researchers that think not only about the technical deliverables of their research but also the entrepreneurial opportunities from their research, whether those deliverables can be commercialized or not,” he says.

Participant Ghada Nafie speaks to the workshop audience.

Participant Ghada Nafie speaks to the workshop audience.

Adrian Shellard, for the University of Calgary

Commercialization training in a tech company context

The Energy Innovators workshops are led by instructors from Innovate Calgary, UCalgary’s innovation transfer and business incubator centre. Each workshop is dedicated to a specific concept of commercialization and provides opportunities for the participants to apply those concepts to example scenarios and to their own projects.

“The workshop series is designed for students or researchers with an interest in commercializing deep technology. They require significant capital, and have unique challenges with respect to implementing their research into the market,” explains Dr. John Wilson, president and chief executive officer, Innovate Calgary.

“We leverage best-practice start-up tools such as the business model and value proposition canvas but frame them within the context of developing a research-based tech company. We are excited to partner with the GRI to help advance solutions to difficult scientific challenges. Through this program, we are helping to equip the next generation of tech entrepreneurs with the skills to grow a successful venture,” says Wilson.

Along with learning how to develop their concepts, research the intellectual property risks and opportunities, and determine market size and competition, participants will get real-world experience honing their speaking and presentation skills by delivering a pitch for their project to a large, live audience of industry experts at the April pitch competition.

The current session is now closed to registrants. Students interested in future sessions of Energy Innovators can find information at https://www.ucalgary.ca/energy/gri.

Ian Gates, director of the Global Research Initiative in Sustainable Low Carbon Unconventional Resources.

Gates, director of the Global Research Initiative in Sustainable Low Carbon Unconventional Resources

Adrian Shellard, for the University of Calgary

Partnerships create the greatest innovations

“Partnerships are essential for everything we do – ideation, research, training, collaborative thought, and execution of concepts to useful outcomes,” says Gates, who is modeling this for the participants by partnering with Innovate Calgary, the Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking and SAIT to offer this initiative. It is made possible, thanks in part, to support from the Canada First Research Excellence Fund Program.

In September 2016, the Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF) awarded the University of Calgary, in partnership with the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT), $75 million to implement the Global Research Initiative in Sustainable Low Carbon Unconventional Resources (GRI), which aims to significantly reduce the carbon footprint of unconventional resource development and contribute to a climate-neutral energy system.