COSIA members understand they don’t have all the solutions to the environmental challenges facing the oil sands industry. Over the past two years, COSIA has grown the Associate Member (AM) Program in order to bring together different perspectives and additional knowledge from other industries to develop solutions for improving environmental performance in the oil sands.
According to Pej Ghanipour, COSIA’s Head of the AM Program, 40 members have joined the program since it launched in 2013, ranging from small and medium enterprises, to multinational corporations, and from academic institutes, to government and government agencies.
“Associate Members are organizations that share the same vision as our member companies but are not oil sands producers themselves,” says Pej. “These are organizations that have a lot of innovation capacity. Not only do they think about current solutions, but they invest in research and development activities so they can come up with solutions that are longer term and more strategic.”
Peter Beaudoin, Senior Advisor at COSIA, became involved with the AM Program in December of 2014 as the organization began to expand and truly capitalize on the relationships being developed. Peter explained that COSIA’s approach has become more proactive. “Now, we identify firms that we should talk to and who would be the best Associate Members able to address the challenges and concerns our member companies face,” he explains. “What we really want to do is engage and get the Associate Members to understand at a deep level the technological challenges we’re dealing with.”
Pej and Peter also outlined the way innovation hubs have been organized to encompass larger numbers of innovators. “We just don’t have the capacity to handle thousands of Associate Members, so we have innovation hubs that are organizations that serve as the gateway between us and those groups.” An example of this is the Canada-Israel Industrial Research and Development Foundation (CIIRDF) that represents all research institutes and companies in Israel.
Since its inception there have been a number of successful collaborations through the AM Program. For example, Peter referred to Maxxam Analytics, a company that identified a need for standardized reviews of water quality to ensure consistency in monitoring parameters across the oil sands firms. “This was one member who knew our business and provided a solution.”
Another Associate Member that has been a natural fit for COSIA is the University of Alberta. Stefan Scherer, Special Advisor to the VP Research, says there are numerous benefits of the partnership. One benefit is having a central point for all researchers to access industry partners. Secondly, many of these researchers will subsequently enter the workforce, offering the skills and tools they’ve acquired to industry partners.
Stefan said University of Alberta researchers have contributed to all of COSIA’s Environmental Priority Areas (EPAs). “We have several hundred researchers who have direct or indirect areas that are of interest to COSIA,” he explains, adding that their researchers also look for issues that have not been previously identified by COSIA’s member companies. “We see ourselves as a constructive, critical voice that can help identify and advance potential issues and solutions.”
Alberta Innovates-Technology Futures (AITF) is another of COSIA’s Associate Members that was quick to get on board with the concept of collaborative innovation and has also participated in projects across all of the EPAs. Stephen Lougheed, President and CEO, said COSIA is tremendously important to AITF since they share a common goal of advancing environmental technology innovation. “COSIA is one of the best things that has happened,” he says. “It’s critically important to driving innovation a lot faster than the sometimes fragmented and overlapping efforts (of individual companies).”
He went on to say that the awareness COSIA has provided in terms of its Challenges has helped organizations like AITF determine where to focus efforts and funding. Stephen has high hopes that similar collaborative models will begin to develop in other sectors, such as pipelines.
“A lot of our problems are not unique to the oil sands; the rest of the world has some of the same issues. If we solve the problems here, we can sell that technology around the world and make the world a better, cleaner place,” says Stephen. “It’s a tremendous opportunity for Canada and unique for what COSIA has done for Canadian leadership, getting all companies working in a collaborative way to identify problems and deal with them.”
To date, COSIA has received 96 project offerings from its Associate Members and industry is pursuing 12 of those project offerings.