Spotlight on the Clean Resource Innovation Network: Connecting the dots between low carbon and sustainable resource development

By Alex Carr, Senior Associate

In this week’s blog, we had the pleasure of interviewing Joy Romero, Vice President, Technology & Innovation at Canadian Natural Resources Limited. Joy is part of the diverse team that is developing the Clean Resource Innovation Network (CRIN). Most recently, she and the CRIN team – with support from Delphi – submitted a supercluster strategy to the federal government’s Innovation Superclusters Initiative.

What is the Clean Resource Innovation Network (CRIN)?

CRIN is a national industry-led network with a single focus: positioning Canada as a global leader of low-emission hydrocarbon energy, from source to end use. We want to coordinate and accelerate all the many efforts and initiatives underway across the country that share this aim.

There are many groups, companies (small, medium and large), universities, research institutions, governments and individuals who are trying to make a difference in this space. We believe we can be more efficient and advance our goals much faster if we are working more closely together.

Why is CRIN important?

The fastest way to get to a lower-carbon economy is to use a combination of renewable energy sources and lower-carbon oil and gas. It’s not either/or, it’s an “and” story. Canada can have a low-carbon economy AND be a global leader in sustainable resource development. CRIN will help to deliver on this goal.

How does CRIN achieve its goals?

CRIN gives us the opportunity to build a shared understanding of what success looks like in the oil and gas sector, and to identify the gaps we need to fill to get there. We can use the network to facilitate connections between disparate groups working on similar solutions, to develop new research partnerships, to foster solutions. It’s a way of connecting the dots and effectively levering the innovation ecosystem to accelerate results.

Large industry, SMEs, the finance sector and all levels of government are collaborating through CRIN’s Leaders Forum, Steering Committee and Advisory Council. Marty Reed, CEO of Evok Innovations, is the Chair of the Advisory Council, bringing a unique combination of venture capital and cleantech expertise and an extensive SME network to the role.  To date, eight universities are supporting CRIN, and we’re hoping more will join us. This kind of diversity, reach and collaboration is exactly what we need to take our place in the clean economy.

What does CRIN mean for innovation in Canada?

CRIN is focusing on delivering solutions that are globally marketable in the future low-carbon economy. The network will provide focus and clarity in terms of the gaps that we need to fill as an industry. Our hope is that this will create an efficient, self-sustaining market for new environmental, greenhouse gas (GHG) and water technologies – technologies that are not only viable in oil and gas sector, but that will be transferable to other sectors as well.

CRIN has already reviewed 100 roadmaps from oil and gas organizations and overlaid about 40 of them showing where companies, universities and research institutions are working and where there are gaps. Our next step is to create challenge statements for solutions that address these gaps, which we hope will spur Canadian innovators to design new technologies and services that will work here and elsewhere.

How does CRIN fit into the federal conversation about superclusters?

The federal government’s Innovation Superclusters Initiative will invest up to $950 million by 2022 to accelerate the growth and development of business-led innovation superclusters in Canada.

CRIN has put together a submission as a clean resource development supercluster – Carol-Ann Brown and some of her colleagues from Delphi worked closely with us on the proposal. We hope to hear back from the government in September about whether we have been shortlisted. If we’re fortunate enough to receive funding under the initiative, we would use it for research and development (R&D) and invest in measures to support the innovation ecosystem’s ability to accelerate the creation, testing and commercialization of technologies. For context, the oil and gas sector spent $1.3 billion in R&D in 2016, which is a huge engine for innovation. If we end up receiving funding under the initiative, CRIN would match the funds and be able to accelerate commercialization in an efficient way.

What does success look like for CRIN?

If CRIN is successful, Canada’s oil and gas industry is the global leader in producing clean hydrocarbons from source to end use. That means that we are competitive in a lower-carbon economy. It means that we are contributing to Canada meeting our climate commitments. We may also be producing new products, such as hydrogen and graphene.

The sector currently provides 425,000 Canadian jobs and contributes 7.3% to the GDP. Five thousand companies outside Alberta provide goods and services to the oil sands. If CRIN is successful, these numbers and companies will grow in the next two decades. Our exports of homegrown technologies and products will increase, and the technologies will not only help Canada meet its international climate commitments, but other countries around the globe as well. The industry will continue to be part of a prosperous Canadian fabric and landscape.

What if someone wants to know more about CRIN?

We welcome others to become a CRIN member.  CRIN is a network, not a legal entity.  There’s no cost to join, although we do expect members to abide by the CRIN principles. You can also get more information on the CRIN website or crininfo@ptac.org.

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