December 3, 2023
Alberta Innovates supports and highlights innovation across Alberta.
Here are ten of our favourite stories of science and technology innovation from the last few years.
NTWIST: machine learning in a processing facility
NTWIST has harnessed the predictive power of machine learning. Their software platform implements artificial intelligence algorithms in a user-friendly package that communicates with existing equipment in an industrial facility and existing control room software.
The platform uses existing sensor data to generate process recommendations and forecast production in real time, with less effort and better outcomes. It allows businesses to make critical decisions by utilizing their operational data, thereby reducing costs and increasing profitability.
NTWIST improves productivity with fewer resources, leading to the conservation of natural resources and reduced environmental footprints. “Achieving operational excellence in a processing facility is crucial as the world transitions to a high-production, low-waste environment,” says Chowdary Meenavilli, NTWIST co-founder.
Alberta Innovates provided $200,000 through its Digital Innovation in Clean Energy (DICE) program. Since the approval of the DICE funding, NTWIST has expanded its team by four full-time and six part-time employees.
Carbonix: an emerging Indigenous-owned cleantech company
Canada’s resource extraction and energy industries are continually looking for new ways to lessen their environmental footprint. As an Indigenous-owned clean-tech company, Carbonix uses blend of science and Indigenous customary practices to help forestry, mining, and oil and gas industries remediate land and water to its natural state. Over the past decade, they have worked alongside chemists at Trent University to develop several IPs around converting low-value, sustainably available feedstocks into high-value-add solutions. Project funding from Alberta Innovates and Ontario Centre of Excellence then helped Carbonix demonstrate proof of concept and cemented a business relationship with energy giant, Suncor. Having steadily scaled their process to full-pilot operations, they now plan to scale their efficacy testing to meet the unique needs of oil sands sector.
In March 2022, Carbonix received $900,000 from the Clean Resource Innovation Network to fund an Ontario/Alberta based project called “Tailings Management Through Nano Technology.”
2SWater: water monitoring for cities and industry
2SWater is a cleantech company helping cities and industry monitor what’s in their water with sensors designed to easily plug into existing equipment. The sensor pulls in a small amount of water and turns it into superheated plasma before analyzing it. The result is a near-instant report of metals, chemicals, and other contaminants. 2SWater’s sensor updates every few minutes, which can keep equipment from being damaged due to poor water quality, as well as helping industries avoid fines and environmental damage. It can also be used to ensure clean drinking water. The process is highly automated and is built to require minimal maintenance. 2SWater’s sensors can be fitted to detect dozens of heavy metals and contaminants and are used in mining, forestry, municipal waste, and other sectors.
Recently, 2SWater was the winner of the fifth annual Mining Cleantech Challenge in Denver and CEO Anthea Sargeaunt, was selected as one of the Canada Clean50 for 2021.
Nanalysis: high-performance benchtop NMR spectrometer manufacturer
Nuclear Magnetic Resonance spectrometers help researchers understand molecular compounds, but existing technology was unwieldy and required too many operators.
In 2009, Nanalysis began working on improving the laboratory instrumentation. Since then, the team was able to turn a bulky, difficult-to-use scientific apparatus into a device that can sit on a bench and be operated by a single technician.
The company began over a decade ago with three employees. In 2012, they were joined by Susanne Riegel, a previous recipient of the Alberta Innovates’ Graduate Student Scholarship and are now publicly listed and employ 70+ people.
Nanalysis accessed support from Alberta Innovates through the Alberta Innovation Voucher program, the Product Demonstration program, and the Commercialization Associate program.
“Without the early assistance from Alberta Innovates, our path to commercialization would have been significantly more difficult,” says Bruce Lix, Director of Business Development
Alta ML: using artificial intelligence to solve real-world problems
Artificial intelligence (AI) is expected to add more than $15 trillion to the global economy by 2030, and AltaML is on the forefront of conceptualizing, developing, and commercializing AI and machine learning (AI/ML) solutions.
“AI/ML talent is a scarce resource concentrated in certain jurisdictions, including Edmonton, and this is the foundation of AltaML’s competitive advantage,” says Cory Janssen, founder and CEO. With the support of the University of Alberta, Alberta Innovates and others, AltaML has developed world-class expertise. The company offers a proven, collaborative approach to applied AI – validated in over 200 use cases with over 50 partners – developing data-driven solutions that enable better decision-making.
AltaML was recognized by AI Global (now known as the Responsible AI Institute) with the 2020 Start-up Leader Award for Responsible AI Design work in the financial, health, and social services sectors.
AutonomIQ: autonomous testing that speeds up software releases
We live in a world where users want software to work perfectly the first time. AutonomIQ is a cloud-based platform that lets developers and IT teams autonomously test, release, and deploy software to meet this high expectation. The platform uses deep-learning and AI algorithms to detect changes, enable self-healing for test assets, and provide critical diagnostics. By transforming the traditionally manual, or partially manual, software testing process into a fully autonomous one, the platform ensures that software releases and deployments are of the highest quality in the shortest amount of time. In their case studies, AutonomIQ was shown to provide a greater than 50 per cent improvement in speed and quality compared to existing tools and techniques, saving companies significant time and money.
AutonomIQ won $10,000 as part of the 2020 Inventures Startup Pitch Event competition. In 2022, it was acquired by the American-based automated testing platform company, Sauce Labs.
Alberta IoT: positioning Alberta as a world leader in IOT and emerging technology
Alberta IoT’s mission is to nurture and support the growth of Alberta’s Internet of Things (IoT) and emerging technology sectors. A member-driven, non-profit, they advocate for and actively recruit new businesses and IoT expertise, coordinate research and innovation, and provide access to resources that support business growth. Current initiatives include: the Fast Track Program, an accelerator for established businesses; Science Park, a virtual platform that bridges the gap between students, academia, and industry; and a New to Canada Start Up Visa Program that helps scale-up businesses relocate to Alberta and Alberta-based businesses to expand globally. Through its Centre of Excellence, Alberta IoT promotes the province as a top region of IoT excellence, communicating to the international market that emerging technologies can thrive in Alberta.
In May 2022, Alberta IoT received $1.57 million in funding from Prairies Economic Development Canada (PrairiesCan) and Alberta Innovates to help support its Fast Track Program and Science Park initiative.
Genoptic LED: using nano-optoelectronics to create a more efficient power chip
In the quest to improve energy efficiencies, Genoptic LED Inc. is leading the way with its revolutionary super-mini smart-chip Integrated Circuit (IC) technology. Its proprietary NanoGen IC Power Chip helps electronic systems and technologies to operate more efficiently with minimal heat signatures, as well as drastic reduction in size and weight. The chip can reduce up to 70 per cent of power-related components versus traditional technologies with an energy efficiency exceeding 91 per cent. Genoptic initially gained commercial success with its LED Sign division, through which it secured some sizable purchase agreements with large national brands. With over 14 novel patent families, the applications powered by the NanoGen chip range from solar devices to power adaptors and supplies to computers, tablets, mobile devices, and more.
In March 2022, Genoptic LED Inc. received $5 million from Prairies Economic Development Canada to establish a manufacturing operation to mass produce advanced hybrid solar panel and battery storage technology.
Copysmith: endless ideas at the click of a button
Copysmith aims to make copywriting easier by employing machine learning to reduce the time needed to write engaging articles, social media posts and ads.
Their process takes advantage of a Generative Pre-trained Transformer language model, which allows it to generate writing that is difficult to distinguish from copy written by humans. The model learns and adapts based on what information the user gives it and what results they are happiest with. Over time, it takes those lessons to create content better tailored towards the user’s particular style.
Copysmith’s process builds its content one word at a time, rather than using pre-stocked phrases and sentiments, ensuring content is unique and avoids plagiarism. The company currently offers over 30 templates, ranging from product descriptions to press releases and is currently working on adding new languages options.
As a researcher in machine learning, Copysmith founder Jasmine Wang knew copywriting could be made easier with artificial intelligence.
Amii: bridging world-leading research and industry
In the early 2000s, investments were being made that would turn Alberta into a beacon for some of the top minds in artificial intelligence and machine learning. In 2000, the Alberta government set aside a $500 million endowment to create the Alberta Ingenuity Fund (AIF), also known as the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Science and Engineering Research (AHFSER). One of the early AlF programs was a competition to establish research groups for promising scientific fields. One of the groups created would go on to become the Alberta Innovates Centre for Machine Learning, later the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute (Amii).
The goal of the research group Amii is to attract and recruit the best and brightest AI researchers from across the globe to work in the province.
Amii has helped make the University of Alberta one of the world’s top-five machine learning and artificial intelligence organizations.