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Technological Innovation

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Aerospace Training Taking off in B.C.

Mark Warawa, Member of Parliament for Langley, announces $80,000 in funding for BCIT in May 2008.

Mark Warawa, Member of Parliament for Langley, announces $80,000 in funding for BCIT in May 2008.

From its unique aerospace technology campus at Vancouver International Airport, the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) has become a leader in aerospace training on the West Coast. With state-of-the-art facilities and equipment, students have access to the latest in avionics hardware, software and simulators.

The Aerospace Technology Campus, which opened in 2007, is the largest aerospace training school in Canada. Spanning more than 300,000 square-feet, the campus provides enough space to accommodate 20 training aircraft and enables BCIT to train more students.

WD has made several contributions towards equipping the campus with the tools needed to train the next generation of aerospace leaders.

Most recently, WD contributed $80,000 towards the development of specialized software for an aircraft diagnostics computer donated by Honeywell Aerospace. The equipment familiarizes BCIT students with avionics theory and helps them gain the hands-on experience needed for transitioning into the workforce.

"Technology is at the heart of education at BCIT, and this support from Western Economic Diversification will enhance the strong relationship we already have with Honeywell, one of our key industry partners," said Don Wright, President of BCIT. "This ensures that BCIT can provide leading-edge training and technology to its aerospace students."

This WD support complements previous investments that strengthen BCIT's research and training infrastructure. In 2006, WD provided $2 million towards the purchase of FIRSTplus, a virtual control tower that features an out-of-the-window display and a radar simulator that mirrors both en route and terminal air traffic control environments. The technology can be extended to other potential applications, such as homeland security, major event security and disaster preparedness.

These investments enable BCIT to offer a wide range of certificate, diploma and degree programs, ranging from aircraft maintenance engineering to commercial pilot training and airport management. With the aerospace industry projecting a high demand for skilled graduates, these WD investments will help BCIT train the

BCIT offers training courses in:

  • Airport Operations
  • Aircraft Gas Turbine (jet) Engine Technician
  • Aircraft Maintenance Engineer Category E (Avionics)
  • Aircraft Maintenance Engineer Category M (Maintenance)
  • Aircraft Maintenance Engineer Category S (Structures)
  • Aircraft Mechanical Component Technician
  • Aircraft Structures Manufacturing Technician
  • Airline and Flight Operations (Commercial Pilot)

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Investment Enhances Alberta's Leadership In Geomatics Engineering

Geomatics Engineering - The science of gathering, analyzing and using geographical information - is one of the fastest growing information sciences in the world. With applications that include land surveying, forestry, agriculture, oil and gas exploration, asset tracking and vehicular navigation, the commercialization of geomatics technologies play an increasingly important role in strengthening the Canadian economy.

The University of Calgary's Schulich School of Engineering is making its mark in the field. Considered one of the top Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) research institutions in the world, the Schulich School has more than 200 software licenses to its credit.

In September 2008, WD provided the Schulich School with $800,000 to help develop the next generation of Global Positioning System technologies. With this investment, researchers in the Position, Location and Navigation (PLAN) group will develop advanced prototype GNSS receivers. The new receivers will take advantage of recent advances in software and network features to improve satellite accuracy and reliability.

Canada is second only to the United States in the value of global navigation system exports. Calgary, in particular, has become a focal point for much of Canada's commercial activity in the sector.

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Alberta Facility Thriving on Innovation

L to R: Dr. Alex Zahavich, Director of SAIT's Applied Research and Innovation Services; Irene Lewis, President and CEO, SAIT Polytechnic; Minister Prentice; and Devinder Shory, MP for Calgary Northeast, view an equipment demonstration in SAIT's robotics laboratory during WD's funding announcement for the SAIT Enerplus Innovation Centre.

L to R: Dr. Alex Zahavich, Director of SAIT's Applied Research and Innovation Services; Irene Lewis, President and CEO, SAIT Polytechnic; Minister Prentice; and Devinder Shory, MP for Calgary Northeast, view an equipment demonstration in SAIT's robotics laboratory during WD's funding announcement for the SAIT Enerplus Innovation Centre.

It may have been built almost 100 years ago, but Canada's oldest public technical institute isn't looking to the past. The Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) is taking advantage of the latest advances in training equipment to ensure its students will thrive in the future.

WD is working closely with SAIT to strengthen the competitiveness of small- and medium-sized businesses in the energy, manufacturing and construction sectors. In 2006, WD provided funding for SAIT's Centre for Innovative Information Technology Solutions (CIITS) to help accelerate the adoption of information technologies.

The Centre will assist companies with business and process analysis, provide a vendor-neutral training environment, and enable them to work with leading-edge information technology products and systems. The Centre's aim is to address training and development gaps for businesses in order to help increase efficiencies.

Most recently, WD committed $4 million to develop and equip the new SAIT Enerplus Innovation Centre. With this investment, SAIT will purchase and install environmental simulation and containment control systems in its laboratories. The new equipment will help businesses translate their ideas into commercial applications by simulating and validating new technologies or refining products and processes.

Over the long term, this facility will help new products, processes and technologies come to market and facilitate the growth and expansion of a new generation of businesses. By investing a total of $5 million towards SAIT's applied research development and commercialization activities, WD is investing in the skilled workers, innovators and business that will help will drive the Western economy in the future.

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Improving oil extraction technology

Dr. Carolyn Preston, Executive Director of the Petroleum Technology Research Centre and Mr. Ernie Pappas, Vice President, Energy, of the Saskatchewan Research Council show Minister Yelich the 3-D physical model used to characterize oil reservoirs during a tour of the PTRC lab.

Dr. Carolyn Preston, Executive Director of the Petroleum Technology Research Centre and Mr. Ernie Pappas, Vice President, Energy, of the Saskatchewan Research Council show Minister Yelich the 3-D physical model used to characterize oil reservoirs during a tour of the PTRC lab.

With half of the world's remaining petroleum reserves locked in "unconventional" sources, such as oil sands and shale, it's good business for companies to get more of their product out of the ground while reducing costs and environmental impacts.

Currently, the most common method of oil extraction uses steam, which requires considerable amounts of energy and water. However, Regina's Petroleum Technology Research Centre (PTRC) team recently began two research projects that aim to increase oil extraction efficiency and reduce strain on resources.

"The development of advanced oil extraction technologies can improve the overall efficiency of the extraction process, while mitigating environmental impacts and reducing the overall cost for industry," said Minister of State Yelich. "The commercialization of these technologies can have a significant, long-term impact on the Canadian economy and solidify the West as a leader in innovation."

The first project seeks to eliminate the use of steam in the extraction of oil sands bitumen by using solvents rather than water. Solvent vapour extraction technology injects solvents (like propane and butane) into a reservoir to facilitate oil extraction.

The process does not require heating to extract the oil, so there is no water used and no Co2 produced. If this technology proves viable and is applied to all steam-assisted oil extraction operations in Canada, it could reduce CO2 emissions by 85 million tones over the life of bitumen and heavy oil extraction in Canada. That's equivalent to the emissions produced by about 850 million barrels of oil.

The second project will examine the possibility of re-injecting flue gas into oilsands reservoirs for improved oil recovery and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Most flue gas produced during the extraction process is burned off at oil recovery facilities and vented into the atmosphere, thus increasing greenhouse gas emissions.

"The continued support of the Government of Canada in our enhanced oil recovery research is instrumental in helping the oil industry monetize increasingly more difficult to access reserves," said Dr. Carolyn Preston, Executive Director of the PTRC. "They are also providing the financial support to develop technologies that will mitigate environmental impacts."

With the current recovery rate of heavy oil reserves about 10 per cent and the value of current unrecoverable oil resources estimated at $1-trillion, improved oil extraction technologies can have major economic impacts for the West and Canada. An efficiency increase of only 1 per cent is estimated to yield 350-million additional barrels of oil worth approximately $17-billion for Saskatchewan and Canadian economies.

The projects, which run through 2011, received a total of $2.5 million in funding from WD and Natural Resources Canada in February 2009.

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Advanced computing to improve Canadian research

MP Rod Bruinooge, Minister Yelich, Minister Toews and Minister Fletcher with University of Manitoba officials following the HPC announcement.

MP Rod Bruinooge, Minister Yelich, Minister Toews and Minister Fletcher with University of Manitoba officials following the HPC announcement.

At the University of Manitoba, a new High Performance Computing (HPC) facility is coming online to help meet the growing demands of researchers. In recent years, the need for HPC has increased because of the technology's wide range of applications.

HPC is an integrated computing environment used in science, engineering and business. It offers researchers a way to simulate weather patterns, model the behaviour of lifesaving drugs, and perform complex astronomical calculations. More recently, HPC has been used to perform calculations in emerging fields, such as medical sciences, transportation and financial operations.

The new HPC system will reduce the time it takes to perform complex calculations from weeks and months to hours or days, giving the university's researchers a competitive edge. Once online, the facility will be able to simulate the affects of radiation on the body and model the efficiencies and capabilities of future infrastructure. The WD investment of $2.1 million will be used to construct a special facility to house the new computer, enabling the University of Manitoba to retire its current HPC system, Polaris.

"Advances in science and technology are essential to strengthen the competitiveness of Canada's economy," said Minister of State Yelich. "Our investment in this High Performance Computing facility will enhance the quality of Canadian research in multiple fields of study and lead to the development and commercialization of new technologies."

The computer will also be used by the 14 universities that form the Western Canada Research Computing Grid (WestGrid) to study mathematical challenges in fields such as transportation and finance. It will also be used by Compute Canada, which coordinates academic supercomputing in Canada and is working to ensure Canada reaps the internationally competitive benefits of supercomputing over the next 15 years.

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What kind of research can be done with HPC?

Mr. Gerry Miller, Executive Director, Information Services & Technology, shows Minister Yelich around the University of Manitoba's HPC Facility.

Mr. Gerry Miller, Executive Director, Information Services & Technology, shows Minister Yelich around the University of Manitoba's HPC Facility.

HPC has a wide range of applications, but there are several innovative projects that will be carried out at the University of Manitoba. For example, researchers at CancerCare Manitoba will use the computer to simulate how diagnostic radiation travels through the body. The resulting visualizations could lead to fundamental changes in how patients are diagnosed and treated in the future.

The University's Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering will use HPC to model a high-voltage electrical grid. The simulated testing of the grid would enable researchers to calculate and manage the irregular supplies of power expected to flow from renewable sources of electricity, such as wind turbine farms and solar arrays. Similarly, the Faculty of the Earth and Environment will use the HPC to develop better weather forecasts for those same wind farms.

HPC can be used as primary driver of innovation and, with its wide range of practical applications, represents a significant economic opportunity to help bring innovative products, technologies and services to market.

Commercializing clean technologies in the pulp and paper industry

Canada's pulp and paper industry has changed dramatically over the past few decades, adapting to changing markets and using innovative ideas and technologies to increase efficiencies and productivity. Moving through today's volatile economic climate, it is just as important as ever for industry to reduce operating costs and increase long-term sustainability.

Based in Vancouver, the not-for-profit FPInnovations is taking on a project that hopes to revolutionize the pulp and paper industry in a different way - by minimizing the energy, and emissions needed to make paper.

Nexterra's gasification system is the world's first bio-gas powered pulp and paper boiler. If successful, the system promises to dramatically reduce operating costs for industry, while mitigating fossil-fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions in a wide variety of industrial applications.

In January 2009, WD and Natural Resources Canada announced an investment of more than $2.8 million toward the development and commercialization of this new technology. WD's investment of almost $1.2 million will enable FPInnovations to conduct commercial demonstrations of the system across Western Canada.

Minister of State Yelich meets Erol Karacabeyli of FPInnovations while touring the FPInnovations Centre January 2009.

Minister of State Yelich meets Erol Karacabeyli of FPInnovations while touring the FPInnovations Centre January 2009.

The commercialization of this new technology supports WD's goals of encouraging innovation and enhancing the productivity of Canada's traditional industries. Currently, boilers in the forestry industry use natural gas to produce the steam and water necessary to make paper products. The Nexterra gasification system would be the first in the world to demonstrate the operation of an industrial boiler using a synthetic gas to produce paper.

Already, the Nexterra system is slated for a Kruger Products Ltd. tissue mill in New Westminster, B.C. The boiler will use "syngas" generated from locally-sourced wood residue in place of natural gas. Once the system is in place, Nexterra should lower the mills operating costs and displace enough natural gas to heat 3,500 homes in Canada for a year.

Nexterra will also reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the plant by more than 22,000 tonnes per year, the equivalent of removing nearly 5,500 cars off Canadian roads.

"Our new Westminster mill is situated in an urban area, so we needed the cleanest technology available, and in a challenging economic climate, we also needed the most cost-competitive," said Frank van Biesen, VP Technology Kruger Products Ltd. "Nexterra's biomass gasification system addresses both challenges, significantly reducing both greenhouse gas emissions and energy costs."

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FPInnovations

FPInnovations works towards optimizing the forest sector value chain by developing new products and market opportunities within a framework of environmental sustainability. It employs more than 600, with research laboratories and technology transfer offices throughout the country. For more information, visit: www.fpinnovations.ca.