Driving Prosperity Through Technological Innovation - discoverAPEGA

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Provincial Archives of Alberta PA3015.2


Driving Prosperity Through Technological Innovation

Building prosperity through scientific research, engineering expertise, and technological innovation. That was—and continues to be—the fundamental purpose of Alberta Innovates.

Canada’s first provincial research body, it was created in 1921 to support economic growth and improve life for rural and urban Albertans.

Back then, the organization was named the Scientific and Industrial Research Council of Alberta, and it was the first research council in Canada. Early projects were guided by a five-member advisory panel that included four APEGA engineering and geoscience professionals—Jean Cote, John Stirling, Norman Pitcher, PhD, and John Allan, PhD—with University of Alberta president Henry Marshall Tory as the chair.

Dr. Allan, a geologist, conducted the first mapping of Alberta’s mineral and energy resources.

Much of the council’s initial research focused on coal and oil sands development. Professor Edgar Stansfield, a chemical engineer, explored new markets for coal. Karl Clark, PhD, P.Eng.—a chemist as well as an APEGA member—investigated the use of oil sands for paving.


The council’s work halted in the 1930s because of the Great Depression, but it resumed in 1942. Soon came one its most noted achievements: construction of the Bitumount pilot plant in 1944, where Clark pioneered hot water extraction methods.

Clark’s Bitumount work would eventually lead to the commercialization of Fort McMurray’s oil sands deposits.

As the province evolved, the council adapted its programs to address the issues of the day. Through the 1950s and beyond, researchers were called upon to study everything from water fluoridation to weather modification to the feasibility of smelting iron ore deposits near Peace River. Solar and wind energy were studied in the 1970s. In the mid-1980s, an electronics test centre and biotechnology pilot plant opened, followed by an engineered wood composites plant.

With nearly a century of achievements to its credit, Alberta Innovates continues today to be committed to solving industrial challenges and driving new ideas forward through targeted funding programs and collaborations with industry, government, and academia.

Areas of focus include clean energy, agriculture, forestry, food production, healthcare, and artificial intelligence.

Just like they were in the beginning, geoscientists and engineers are leading the organization—and Alberta—to success.


A scientist with the council conducts infrared gas testing in 1961.

Provincial Archives PA3015.2



Candice Paton, P.Eng., Alberta Innovates’ executive director for clean energy, explains her work in areas of energy storage, carbon capture, bioenergy, and clean power.


Did You Know?

Recent projects led by APEGA entrepreneurs and inventors, with Alberta Innovates support, include:

  • leak detection technology to enhance pipeline safety,
  • silicon nanomaterials that turn office tower windows into electricity-producing solar panels,
  • microsensors that diagnose and treat brain conditions
  • a device that helps cyclists measure aerodynamics
  • clean upgrading technology for heavy oil, and
  • tiny electronic components used by the telecommunications, biosystems, aerospace, and automotive industries