Glen McCrimmon of the Clean Resource Innovation Network (CRIN) discusses Innovation Central, a new initiative designed to help bring hydrocarbon cleantech solutions to market.
CRIN connects people and organizations in the clean energy innovation space in Canada: innovators, entrepreneurs, investors and governments; recognizing the power of collaboration to accelerate promising technologies into real-world environmental solutions.
Leighton: Hello and welcome to another edition of the Energy Examined podcast, the podcast that discusses the issues facing Canada’s oil and natural gas sector with the insiders in the know. I’m Leighton Klassen. Today, I’m joined by Glen McCrimmon. He’s with the Clean Resource Innovation Network, also known as CRIN, and he chairs CRIN’s Technology Enablement Committee. He’s also a board director with Alberta Innovates. Glen is here to talk to us about a new initiative called Innovation Central, which is a platform for innovators to showcase their new technologies and match them with the right resources to get their technology to market. Glen, welcome to the show.
Glen: Thank you.
Leighton: Before we get into CRIN’s new initiative, let’s talk about CRIN for our listeners who may not be familiar with the organization. What does CRIN do?
Glen: CRIN, the Clean Resource Innovation Network is a Canada-wide, not for profit and we like to refer to ourselves as a network of networks. It was initiated by folks in the oil and gas industry and it’s all about convening and connecting people and organizations in the clean energy innovation space in Canada. We see ourselves as non-competitive, and what we try to do is amplify what’s going on by others in the network space, that is to accelerate solutions. And although it’s an oil and gas focus, the goal here is that the solutions that are brought to bear through the network are things that are applicable across Canada’s industries and potentially for export. And CRIN’s vision is that Canada is the global leader in clean hydrocarbons from source to end use.
Leighton: The latest initiative is called Innovation Central. It’s a web page that connects innovators with organizations, research partners, funders, just to name a few, with the idea of helping them get their innovations into the market. Tell me more about how this new initiative works.
Glen: You can think of it as a database of clean energy technology projects at various technology readiness levels. We’re kind of crossing the spectrum, if you will, and the goal here is to create opportunities to accelerate clean technology through to commercialization and adoption, and accelerate that flow by providing innovators exposure to their market. But it’s not just exposure to potential clients. It’s also exposure to facilities, accelerators, where they can get business assistance, financial assistance, that sort of thing.
The way it works is developers or solution providers, innovators who have solutions, submit their projects to be featured on the website and then others in the network, whether they’re oil and gas producers, maybe they’re investors or funders, other solution developers, governments, researchers, accelerators, whomever that use Innovation Central, can use it to find the people and the resources that they need to bring these innovations to the commercialization space. And each project that gets uploaded has its own detailed page, where viewers will be able to find a project description, contact information, and the type of support that’s been requested.
Leighton: So, it’s kind-of like a big connector in this whole big process.
Glen: Absolutely right. Aligned with CRIN’s mission of being a connector and a convenor.
Leighton: And so, where — obviously, there is a demand for this. Where did the idea come from? And how did you determine you needed this sort-of connector initiative, if you will?
Glen: You know, it’s an interesting sort-of evolution. As you may know, CRIN was awarded $100 million of funding from the federal government’s Strategic Innovation Fund, and $80 million of that $100 million was used for three clean tech competitions that we ran. And there were so many amazing projects and applications that came through for those competitions. But not everybody can win. We had, you know, the number of winners that we had. And what we wanted to do is find a way to support the projects that were the non-winning projects. How can we get them the exposure that they need?
We had many incredible viable projects that came through. And so, that was part of the impetus for this Innovation Central. But at the same time, we had asks from members for something like this for quite some time, and in particular we had the investors wanting to be able to see a consolidated list of solutions and solution providers that were out there. And frankly, the producers as well were making a similar request. And so, this was kind-of a win-win solution to do this innovation central site to meet all those needs.
Leighton: Now, it was launched this spring. What type of innovators just to kind-of bring us onto the ground for those who aren’t familiar with it, what kind of innovators are currently on the site? And broadly speaking, what are they looking for in terms of supports?
Glen: Well, there’s quite a wide range of solutions currently on the site. And again, across those TRL or technology readiness levels, we’ve got everything from carbon capture utilization and sequestration type initiatives to methane detection and mitigation. There’s digital types of solutions–like I say, quite a broad range. And with this effort, I think I mentioned in answer your last question, that we started with the idea of trying to support the non-winners, if you will, from the competitions.
But we’ve subsequently opened it up to anyone in the network. And in terms of what they’re asking for, the most common asks are, or what they’re looking for from their involvement, they’re looking for investment or funding. They’re often looking for feedback from others on their project. They’re looking for producer partners or potentially lab partners or research partners, access to testing facilities potentially, and access to business accelerators.
Leighton: It sounds like you guys are a great resource for all of that. And I know the initiative is in its early stages, but any success stories, any examples you can give where someone’s gone on to the site and really been able to utilize it?
Glen: You’re right, it is early days. We haven’t gotten to a place where we’re actually pestering any of the participants yet to seek those stories. That is something we are planning to do going forward. But I’d say in terms of successes though, from our perspective, just the strong uptake that we’ve had from the competition entrants has been really great, you know, a really good uptake and really positive feedback, particularly from the investment community and the potential solution adopters as well. So, we’ve had good feedback. Again, success stories there to come.
Leighton: And I guess part of that is because this is new, I know CRIN wants to promote this and make people aware of it to funders, partners, so they can help these innovators; because at the end of the day, we’re all kind-of in the same, have the same goal. So, what is CRIN doing to help promote this initiative?
Glen: Apart from conversations like this one, which is very helpful in terms of getting the word out, we’re promoting through our, we have monthly newsletters, we have our social channels particularly LinkedIn and Twitter. We have been reaching out directly to the accelerators and to the innovators that are out there and solution providers.
Coming up, we’ve got some matchmaking events planned for this fall. Watch our LinkedIn feed for that. And frankly, there are a number of events that CRIN will be hosting or participating in, in the near future. I would just encourage people to go to our web site, which is cleanresourceinnovation.com and go to the events page. You’ll see a good list of those. And we’re also asking from our membership — and CRIN has over 3000 members to date — we’re asking the members to promote as well.
Leighton: So people can go to the website to check out those events and check out that. The last question I wanted to ask you just before we go, I mean, you speak very passionately about this and with a lot of excitement. So, I guess just on a personal note, what excites you most about this and with your involvement in it?
Glen: Since CRIN’s inception, we’ve been always wanting to, you know, be that connector, make those connections. And we’ve been doing that. But having a platform of sorts where the innovators can actually make themselves available and where others can see them, where they don’t have to pick up the phone and say, call Glen up, ‘hey, Glen, you know, I’m interested in, you know, connecting with some innovators in the carbon capture space. Do you know who I should contact?’ Well, you don’t have to call me for that. You can just go to the website, and we’re trying to make this easier and friendlier.
Going forward, what I’m really excited about is where we want to go with this because the next phase that we’ll see coming in the near future is CRIN is partnering with PTAC, Petroleum Technology Alliance of Canada. And we’re going to be having what we’re calling a video library. And so, this is where innovators can actually upload short videos of their technology that can be shared.
And we’re also again, this is quite exciting for me, is we’re building a roadmap for the innovation landscape in Canada, the clean energy innovation landscape in Canada. So, a digital roadmap that will be coming out likely in the fall. And trust me, I’ve seen a preview of it: it’s quite good. It’ll be very useful for our members. And as I said, we’re hosting or participating in member events coming up. So the future is quite bright. I mean, we found success to-date in that connecting and convening space. And we’ve also found success as a conduit for funding through that Strategic Innovation Fund money that I alluded to earlier. And we want to keep doing these things. So, I would say stay tuned for that.
Leighton: Okay, great. Anything else to add on this?
Glen: Only — again, I encourage people to check it out. The Innovation Central, you can provide the link for it, but acceleratingcleanenergy.com is the site for that. And then CRIN itself is cleanresourceinnovation.com. And just to remind folks, we don’t just sit on our butts and wait for things to happen. We’ve got webinars coming up. We’ve got a funder series, a first one coming up this fall called Funding 101. And we also have a continuation of policy series that we’ve been running, and this one’s going to be in early October, and it’s focused on the Clean Fuel Standard. So, if you want to try to understand the Clean Fuel Standard, this is a good one to latch into.
Other than that, I would say again, go to our website, check the events page. We have a lot going on. And if you want to be involved, become a member of CRIN. CRIN membership is free. You can sign up as an individual or on behalf of your organization if you have authority to do that. And all you have to do is sign a very brief, what we call a social contract that says that you’re going to behave in a fair and collaborative way with other members, and then you’re in and then you get access to more on our website. So, I encourage everyone to do that, and I’d really like to thank you very much, Leighton, for the time that we’ve had here to talk about it.
Leighton: Well, it’s a very interesting initiative. And yeah, I think a lot of people will find it very resourceful, especially those innnovators, obviously; so excited to follow it and see how it all goes, because it sounds like it’s a great project. Thanks for explaining it to us today, Glen.
Glen: My pleasure.
Leighton: Glen McCrimmon chairs, CRIN’s Technology Enablement Committee. Stay tuned for our next Energy Examined podcast. And if you like this one, please share it with a friend and make sure you subscribe on whichever podcast you have. For more stories and interviews on Canada’s energy industry, check out our website, context.capp.ca. See you next time.