Compelling challenges drive the scientific inquiry inside COSIA

For scientists and engineers, a compelling challenge is what sets them onto the path of scientific inquiry. At its heart, COSIA is a science, engineering and innovation organization, and the challenge and motivation to discover and develop technologies that will accelerate environmental performance improvement in the oil sands is what drives the scientific inquiry going on inside COSIA.

We are fortunate to have some of the world’s best minds partnering with the COSIA companies, developing and testing cutting-edge technologies, and contributing to Canada’s innovation agenda by building on the global resource advantage we have in the oil sands. COSIA currently sponsors 13 Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) chairs, bringing some of Canada’s best academic researchers to the real-world challenges faced by the country’s industries. This is significant not only because it supports the research the industry wants, but because of its contribution to the development of world class talent in science and engineering. 

Two of the research efforts that have come from our work with the chair program are highlighted in this issue of Collaborator, with Dr. Ward Wilson’s projects looking at oil sands geotechnique and Dr. Paul Simms’ examination of tailings as part of the Collaborative Research Development program. We are also excited about the recent announcement of a new Industrial Research Chair for Colleges in Oil Sands In Situ Steam Generation at SAIT. Stay tuned for more on that later this year.

When I look at the people that work inside of COSIA, whether they’re an engineer or scientist for a company or COSIA staff, or an Associate Member leader or innovator, every single one of these people are interested in making a difference, and harnessing each other’s knowledge to realize outcomes that will benefit, not just their organization, but the province, Canada and the world. They represent, perfectly, the spirit, passion, creativity and promise that take us from problems to solutions.

On October 18, we gathered some of these great minds, both in person and virtually, together for our fourth Performance Update.

During the event I reported that, to date, COSIA member companies have shared 936 distinct technologies and innovations that cost $1.33 Billion to develop. Today, in our active portfolio, we have 276 active projects at a cost of $680 Million, a significant increase in both number of projects and portfolio value since last year.

Specifically in 2016, COSIA companies:

  • Started 76 new projects worth $219 Million
  • Completed 119 projects, many of which are delivering real environmental benefits
  • Shared 113 technologies costing $111 Million to develop

The 2016 Project Portfolio profiles initiatives in each of our Environmental Priority Areas. Bubble diagrams for each—Land, Greenhouse Gases, Tailings and Water—help visualize the broad range and highly interconnected nature of the opportunity areas and gaps where our work is focused. Each gives an appreciation for the in-depth structure of our approach to innovation and its focus on targeted solutions.

A highlight of the Performance Update was the CEO and Innovator panel, which brought a business columnist, a member company chairman, a senior scientist with XPRIZE foundation, together with Dr. Henri Rothschild, President of the Canada-Israel Industrial Research & Development Foundation, who suggested that COSIA provides a powerful message to government of what should be a different approach to an innovation strategy for the country.

Rich Kruger, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Imperial, and Dr. Paul Bunje, Principal and Senior Scientist of the XPRIZE Foundation, joined Dr. Rothschild on the panel to discuss how COSIA’s model and active collaboration speeds up innovation timelines by finding solutions faster. I was happy to join this conversation, which was moderated by Deborah Yedlin, Calgary Herald business columnist. If you missed it, you can watch it, and the whole event, on the recorded webcast

Bringing together different perspectives, backgrounds, educations and world views and facing problems head-on keeps us continuously renewing and positioning Canada as a global economic and environmental leader in a quickly changing world. And when the world’s best minds, like the ones working with COSIA, focus on solving important challenges, good things happen.