Rob Gray of COSIA, photo by Jason Dziver.

Oil sands alliance offers Innovation Opportunities

Rob Gray of COSIA says the technology hub’s new crowdsourcing initiative will reach the next generation of environmental innovators.

Since its founding in 2012, Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA) has become a leader in open-source innovation, creating a collaboration model that’s unique in the world. COSIA’s technology innovations are helping achieving major environmental performance improvements across the oil sands industry.

But according to Rob Gray, COSIA’s director, communications and stakeholder relations, there’s still more work to be done. COSIA continues to seek great ideas from researchers, academics, innovators and entrepreneurs the world over. To that end, in June 2019 COSIA released its Innovation Opportunities where there is a need or opportunity to improve environmental performance through research, new technologies or processes. Think of it as global innovation crowdsourcing.

Rob Gray, director, communications and stakeholder relations at COSIA, believes a global approach to innovation can spur ideas to solve environmental challenges in the oil sands. Photo by Jason Dziver.

“We believe Innovation Opportunities can benefit from broader global collaboration,” says Rob Gray, COSIA’s Director, Communications and Stakeholder Relations. “While these opportunities are centered on oil sands environmental improvement, many have the potential to be deployed in other industries across the world. These Innovation Opportunities build on our existing innovation strength, but this is a significant step forward for COSIA and the oil sands industry, both in terms of being leaders in open innovation as well as transparency.”

COSIA’s Innovation Opportunities provide focused, actionable descriptions of the current state of opportunities related to environmental processes and impacts of the oil sands industry. They include desired outcomes without prescribing the means for reaching those outcomes. Innovation Opportunities include research and technology needs, from incremental – because small things add up – through to game-changers. More than 60 opportunities have been identified, including:



16 in GHG reduction

Produce oil from the oil sands with lower GHG emissions than other sources.

23 in water use and treatment

Produce Canadian energy with no adverse impact on water.

14 in tailings management

Transform tailings from waste into a resource that speeds land and water reclamation.

8 in land reclamation and footprint reduction

Restore disturbed land efficiently and effectively, while preserving biodiversity.

“In the past, COSIA shared research opportunities in the form of public ‘challenges,’ of which we’ve had about 20,” Gray explains.

“We are now releasing a more comprehensive list of Innovation Opportunities, some of which incorporate evolved versions of previously unsolved challenges.”

Innovation Opportunities have been directly identified by COSIA member companies, who analyze their operations and identify gaps or possibilities that can not only be deployed in operator-specific situations but also have the potential to contribute toward improving overall industry performance.

Gray says, “If you’re an academic, researcher, innovator, inventor, entrepreneur, large company, or really anyone with an idea or potential innovation — we want to hear from you. After all, one never knows from where the next great idea will come.”

Anyone wanting to submit ideas for consideration can do so through COSIA’s Environmental Technology Assessment Portal (E-TAP), at COSIA technical staff are available to provide more information and answer specific questions.

In this article, Context speaks with:
  • Rob Gray Director, Communications and Stakeholder Relations Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance