Innovative Ideas and the Power of Open Sourcing

Open Sourcing

Six years from publishing the first research papers on a new clean water technology, university researcher Frank Gu and his team secured $1.7 million in funding from a federal government program to develop their passive water treatment system. The system uses a sunlight-powered technology to remove organic contaminants from water affected by oil sands processes. This novel treatment method will potentially reduce water use at oil sands operations and allow more water to be continuously recycled.

Gu, CEO of H2nanO, and his team credit COSIA with helping them ramp up their Kitchener-based start-up from a University of Waterloo spin-off to a full-scale, clean tech company that is now testing its ‘SolarPass’ technology in the field.

So how did COSIA help? COSIA’s open collaboration model allows it to work with all types of innovators anywhere in Canada, or around the world. COSIA had been working with researchers at the University of Waterloo since 2016 to help them understand what kinds of technologies the energy industry was interested in. As an alliance of oil sands producers, COSIA provides a window into the industry’s environmental priorities and the kinds of innovative solutions that might address them. 

H2nanO pitched their technology idea to COSIA via the online Environmentally Technology Assessment Portal (E-TAP) on the COSIA website. E-TAP provides the opportunity for any innovator globally to submit an idea for evaluation by industry representatives. The submission form is brief and with only non-confidential information submitted, a company’s intellectual property rights are protected. No matter the outcome, innovators always keep their background intellectual property. 

COSIA members reviewed H2nanO’s technology submission and were impressed by its potential for addressing hard-to-treat water contaminants in the oil sands. Over the course of the next few months, COSIA staff worked directly with Gu and the H2nanO team to design a field trial. Today, five COSIA members are trialing H2nanO technology at their oil sands sites to assess the effectiveness of the water treatment technology. 

On the basis of this work, H2nanO was granted $1.7 million in funding from the federal government’s Sustainable Development Technology Canada program in August 2019 to help them bring their new and innovative technology to market.

“COSIA is the catalyst that has enabled H2nanO and its oil sands members to bring this technology from bench-top concept to field pilot. COSIA’s unique connection between energy and sustainable innovation leaders has enabled H2nanO to bring built-in-Canada innovation to where it is today. We thank John Brogly, Chris Godwaldt, and our COSIA member partners for helping us to realize a new and exciting tool for water management in Canada’s Oil Sands,” Gu says.

Check out Peter's first guest blog:

Share on:

Facebook LinkedIn Twitter