Canadian Plastics

Alberta a hot spot for manufacturing innovation: panel

Alberta is a new go-to province for manufacturers looking to access specialized equipment and know-how to get their ideas off the ground, according to a panel of experts.

June 19, 2013   Canadian Plastics

Alberta is a new go-to province for manufacturers looking to access specialized equipment and know-how to get their ideas off the ground, according to a panel of experts.

Speaking at the Western Manufacturing Technology Show (WMTS) in Edmonton, a group of six innovation specialists touted Alberta as a hub for research and development, and an ideal location for manufacturers and innovators alike to advance their products.

From innovation centres at colleges throughout the province to regional networks that provide full-service product development and incubation for entrepreneurs, the panel said, Alberta has it all.

“We are a catalyst for innovation in Alberta, for Alberta,” said Karen Young, executive director of partnerships and collaborations with Alberta Innovates Technology Futures (AITF). Young described AITF as an arm’s length government body that works to encourage entrepreneurial activity in the province through the development of knowledge-based industry clusters and the facilitation of commercializing new technologies for a broad spectrum of industries. AITF offers more than 100,000 square metres of product and process development facilities, a 300 hectare research farm, three greenhouses, and 36 growth chambers on a fee-for-service basis for research and development, she said, specifically in the areas of petroleum, environment and carbon management, and bio and industrial technologies. Just one of the many innovation outlets in Alberta, AITF also takes on the role of umbrella organization for the Alberta Regional Innovation Network System (ARINS), which reaches throughout Wild Rose Country.


That network, which spans from Lethbridge and Medicine Hat to the south, up through Calgary, Red Deer and Edmonton in central Alberta and to Grande Prairie in the north, relies on strategic geographical locations for small and medium-sized firms around the province looking to gain access to a host of programs and services to help grow their businesses.

“One of the benefits in the province of Alberta is we’re not only focused on manufacturing and technology in Edmonton and Calgary,” said Dr. John Wolodko, portfolio manager of advanced materials with AITF. “The regional areas have a lot of vested interest as well as contribute significantly to the province in terms of economic activity.”

Located in Grande Prairie, about 450 kilometres northwest of Edmonton, the Centre for Research and Innovation (CRI) is one member of the ARINS network that provides innovation services and applied research for inventors, innovators and researchers in a key economic region of the province. While home to only five per cent of the population, the Peace Region surrounding Grande Prairie provides 40 per cent of all patent inquiries in Alberta, making the CRI a tremendous asset to those looking to commercialize their ideas. Through the CRI, which is associated with Grande Prairie Regional College (GPRC), innovators can learn how to develop products and ideas for the marketplace while utilizing facilities and faculty members with expertise in a variety of areas.

Southeast of Grande Prairie is the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) and its NovaNAIT applied research and technology centre. Prototype development and product testing are just a few of the areas NovaNAIT specializes in, with a variety of centres and labs created for students but available to industry.

Also located in Edmonton – with a co-location in Calgary – is the Alberta Centre for Advanced MNT Products (ACAMP), a not-for-profit organization that offers specialized services to micro nano technology clients. With more than $12 million in equipment and 26 engineers on staff, ACAMP doesn’t work in the development side of innovation, but gets involved only after the idea phase, according to CEO Ken Brizel.

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