Leaders in Innovation

Calgarians aren’t strangers to innovative thinking. We see it in so many facets of life here — whether it’s developing new technologies to solve age-old problems or creating hubs where different people can come together and collaborate in ways they haven’t before. After all, it’s human connection and sharing of insights that often leads to innovation. 
Idea-sharing is critical among professionals to drive innovation, but even more so among students and young entrepreneurs to develop the skills to chase opportunities and become the next generation of changemakers. Read on to see how some of Calgary’s dreamers, thinkers and doers continue to lead the way in innovation, locally and globally.

SAIT Grads Spark Change in Alberta’s Energy Sector

As we move toward sustainable energy solutions, SAIT alumni help lead the way. 

Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) graduates have made great strides with new technologies and entrepreneurship. Here’s what a few outstanding alumni are doing to build more sustainable solutions in the energy sector. 

Practical experience leads to real-world innovation

When Tej Grewal immigrated to Canada, he had no idea he would help change the face of sustainability in oil and gas. Grewal decided to get additional post-secondary education as a way to succeed in his new country. He wanted to complement the bachelor’s degree in telecommunications and electrical engineering he’d earned in India. 

At first, he considered pursuing a master’s degree, but a conversation with a family friend prompted Grewal to seek out practical training instead. After researching SAIT’s practicum options and learning he would gain industry experience, Grewal knew SAIT was the best option for his future.

“I already had engineering basics and understood most of the core values, but what I needed was an entry into the industry,” says Grewal. “I knew SAIT would give me hands-on experience.” 

Grewal joined SAIT’s applied technology petroleum engineering program. It was a class discussion about orphaned oil and gas wells that inspired Grewal to design a game-changing device. While tools exist to help monitor potential gas leaks, they aren’t designed for ongoing use, meaning a well could leak for months before detection, wreaking havoc on the environment. Plus, the prohibitive cost of these tools poses huge barriers. 

Grewal created an accessible low-cost remote device that uses environmental sensors combined with artificial intelligence to continuously measure and detect hazardous greenhouse gas leaks. 

He pitched his idea to potential investors at a SAIT industry night and, soon after graduating in 2018, he co-founded his cleantech startup, Qube Technologies. Since then, Qube has grown into a market leader for emissions detection technology. Grewal’s devices are in use at more than 4,000 sites around the world to detect early leaks, reduce gas emissions and, ultimately, provide a sustainable solution to lessen the environmental strain caused by the oil and gas industry.

With Qube’s early detection and continual monitoring, methane emissions — one of the leading factors of global warming — are being reduced every day. “Qube is growing day by day. We are getting bigger, and we have a bigger impact on the environment,” says Grewal. And his efforts have not gone unnoticed. He’s been named a Top 30 Under 30 on Forbes’ 2023 energy list and was a recipient of SAIT’s 2023 Outstanding Young Alumni Award.

Sustainable solutions across industries

SAIT’s innovative programming spans business, technology, energy, construction, manufacturing, transportation, health and hospitality, and so too does the success of its graduates. Roger Haddad, a 2007 graduate of SAIT’s automotive service technician program, is part of the shift in Formula 1 regulations, which will see a move towards 100 per cent sustainable fuels. SAIT awarded Haddad with the 2023 International Impact Alumni Award for his work as a test engineer for Red Bull Powertrains, where he tests and designs sustainable race-winning engines. 

Two more forward-thinking alumni are Gursh Bal and Kai Fahrion. Graduates of SAIT’s electrician program, they’re also working toward sustainable solutions for renewable energy. The duo founded their Calgary-based company, Zeno Renewables, with a goal to install solar solutions in over one million homes by 2040. Bal and Fahrion were both awarded the SAIT Outstanding Young Alumni Award in 2019.

At SAIT, these changemakers gained the skills and opportunities to become the leaders that our world needs. 

To learn more about SAIT’s innovative programming, visit sait.ca.

The Future is Now for Faster and Better Medical Imaging

Alberta patients could soon benefit from cutting-edge AI imaging software at EFW Radiology.

Seldom do we hear people say they’re excited about a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, and it’s because it can be an uncomfortable and sometimes painful experience. Although it’s an effective medical imaging tool used for screening and diagnostics, it requires patients to remain very still for long periods — which can be challenging and unpleasant, especially for those in pain.

“Anything that we can do to speed up the acquisition of MRI images for those patients is extremely helpful,” explains Dr. John Lysack, a radiologist at EFW Radiology. To that end, EFW Radiology is in the trial process for a new AI software called Deep Resolve that could improve MRI scan times. So far, the trial is showing promising results.

“We’re very pleasantly surprised that it looks like, in addition to being faster, the images are at least as good, if not better. We’re getting a win-win here,” says Lysack.

Reducing interference for quicker and clearer images

In the past, shorter MRI scan times meant sacrificing the quality of the images, but now, the opposite is proving possible. This is thanks to the AI software’s ability to reduce the noise in the signal-to-noise ratio present in MRIs.

By getting rid of some excess noise, which entails any background variability that appears and interferes with the scan, it can produce better quality images, faster. “Radiologists will always have to train their brains to recognize what is noise, what is not and what’s the signal. Now, it’s even better if we can have an assistant to help us identify at least some of the noise and make it go away. And that’s what the AI is doing with Deep Resolve and these sorts of systems,” affirms Lysack.

EFW Radiology is currently performing traditional MRIs at the same time as using Deep Resolve, and comparing the results. So far, Deep Resolve is producing clear images in time frames that are, on average, improved by one third. In some instances, MRI scan times have even been cut in half. “In the world of MRI imaging, we used to get excited about times being improved by 10 per cent. So anything that’s 20 or 30 per cent is incredibly good, and anything approaching 50 per cent is mind-boggling,” says Lysack.

Serving patient needs first

While EFW Radiology prioritizes innovation, it is, firstly, a patient-focused company. EFW keeps up with modern advances, but cautiously, ensuring they will be the best option for its patients. But with the promising results so far, Lysack predicts EFW Radiology will soon put the AI software into full production, and when it does, the positive impact on Albertans will be significant.

He explains that in the not-too-distant past, it was practically impossible to use MRIs for some patients, like those who cannot remain still as they need to swallow or cough, for example. “Now with AI, the game is starting to change. We’re not saying never anymore,” he says. “The things that even a year ago we wouldn’t have thought about trying to image with MRI, we’re now successfully starting to image. It’s really exciting to be able to open up whole new areas that we thought were going to be technically impossible for the foreseeable future.”

EFW Radiology has proudly provided comprehensive diagnostic and interventional imaging services in Calgary and the surrounding areas for over 55 years. They perform over 600,000 imaging procedures, consultations and second opinions annually.

To learn more, visit EFW.ca.

Aging Well Through Innovative Health Care and Social Supports

The Centre for Health and Innovation in Aging improves the lives of older adults with advanced healthcare technology and intergenerational relationships. 
Art teacher, pottery and senior man in a class, learning tips in art class. Young woman teaching old man to roll clay, sculpture and giving instruction in studio to learn new skill in retirement

A new research and education hub, the Centre for Health and Innovation in Aging, has found its home at Mount Royal University (MRU) to improve the health, independence and overall quality of life for older adults. At the centre, aging is not just a natural part of life, it’s viewed as a season of life with great potential for vitality and fulfillment. 

Caring for aging people requires time, expertise and relational care, as their needs are complex and change over time. And yet, their need for skilled care and adequate support to age in place longer are often not prioritized or even recognized. As the Chair of Older Adult Health at MRU and the centre’s director, Jocelyn Rempel understands the pressing demand to provide innovative solutions targeted to the unique needs of older adults. In fact, her chair position was established in response to the aftermath of COVID-19, which revealed the profound gaps in aging care, and the urgent need to prioritize aging in place. 

“Older adults are caught in the midst of a workforce shortage, housing crisis and a struggling healthcare system. Immediate and sustainable solutions are crucial to ensure good quality of life and care,” says Rempel.

Actively including older adults in research

When older adults have limited opportunities to contribute to research related to their demographic, their needs can be easily misunderstood and overlooked, causing disparities in health solutions and outcomes.

“Older adults are underrepresented in research as collaborators and participants. At the centre, we include their diverse voices and perspectives throughout the whole research process, including the initial design of a study,” says Rempel. 

Through ambitious initiatives, the centre is making strides in improving the lives of older people.

One groundbreaking product being introduced by the centre is NEURVESTA, a non-invasive neuroplastic treatment that reduces fall risk in adults between the ages of 50 and 90 and allows aging adults the chance to live independently for longer. 

Intergenerational connections matter   

The centre also creates social impact in the community by helping bridge the gap between generations. “Ageism is rampant in our society. Research shows that intergenerational connections are key to combat negative views and attitudes,” affirms Rempel. “The centre offers an Intergenerational Speaker Series at MRU to promote age-inclusivity and diversity — a unique and successful initiative bridging generations.”

And for students at MRU, the centre offers experiential learning programs and direct opportunities to participate in research partnerships in the industry. “The impact is twofold. They are introduced to research and innovation while also forming intergenerational connections,” says Rempel.   

Looking ahead to 2030, the youngest of the baby boomers — the largest generation in Canada’s population — will reach the age of 65. It’s imperative that we prepare to accommodate their diverse and complex needs. The centre plays a critical role in this preparation by promoting innovation and collaboration to combat ageism and influencing policy across sectors.

To learn more about how you can contribute to innovative research and advancements in aging-in-place initiatives, please contact Foundation@mtroyal.ca.

Propelling Innovation to New Heights

Plug and Play strengthens Alberta’s innovation ecosystem by supporting local entrepreneurs and attracting startups to the province.

Plug and Play, a venture capital firm, drives innovation on a global scale by connecting changemakers, innovators and trailblazers — and it’s doing so right here in Alberta. 

After two successful years, Plug and Play Alberta has advanced homegrown innovations and attracted startups to the province, strengthening the fabric of Alberta’s revolutionizing economy. The network provides a global hub where leading corporations, startups, investors and mentors can connect and help each other reach the next level. 

Albertan innovators and entrepreneurs can scale globally because of pilot programs, facilitated deal flows, pitch events and impactful introductions arranged through Plug and Play’s worldwide network. Alberta corporations are working closely with Plug and Play to supercharge their innovation efforts as they strive to stay at the forefront of their industries.

“The network offers programs in four industries that help improve environmental sustainability, advance digital health technologies, and propel food and beverage institutions to reach new heights. Plus, the forward-looking network accelerates artificial intelligence-based startups in all industries,” says Lindsay Smylie, director of Alberta. 

With Plug and Play’s platform for accelerating the province’s innovation ecosystem and supporting Albertan entrepreneurs, the future is bright. 

Plug and Play is part of the Alberta Scaleup and Growth Accelerator Program that is run by a consortium led by Alberta Innovates.

For more information, visit plugandplaytechcenter.com/alberta

This content was produced for the advertiser by RedPoint Media for commercial purposes. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Avenue staff.

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