Not just for start-ups!

start up innovation technology

Since COSIA’s inception, a key component of our strategy has been to identify clean technologies available from innovators, including start-up companies. One way we’ve engaged is by pointing them to a technology accelerator where they could benefit from outside expertise and mentorship to drive their clean tech innovation forward. In the past few years, however, we’ve noticed a trend of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) accessing accelerator programs too.

These companies have passed the start-up phase and are well along their growth path, but they want to pivot into a new technology or product area. For example, they may be a coatings and painting company looking at developing an entirely new product line for a different customer market. These established companies are looking for advice on how to create a technology strategy, or roadmap, to accelerate development and deployment of their new product.

As experienced entrepreneurs, they already have clarity on how to create a value proposition that resonates with customers. They also know how to develop a business model that delivers value to customers and to their bottom line. But when the new product is a pivot from their core business, they see the value to access product development experts and entrepreneurs-in-residence (EIRs) who can help them drive their innovation forward.

One example is Calgary based Optiseis Solutions Ltd., which helps exploration and production companies gather information about the surface of the Earth and what lies beneath it. This geophysical data, acquired through a variety of survey techniques, provides details about metals, hydrocarbons or other valuable natural resources buried deep below ground. 

The company had developed a new software solution and despite 10 years of consulting experience, they knew they could benefit from outside expertise to accelerate the development of their new product-line. Their Eco-Seis software solution addresses a key challenge of seismic data acquisition, which historically has required cutting a network of narrow corridors through the boreal forest to transport and deploy geophysical survey equipment. These seismic lines are a major feature of the ecological footprint of oil and gas exploration. 

Optiseis Solutions’ new software solution reduces this environmental impact significantly. It reduces land clearing by 30 to 50 per cent, while providing similar or improved data quality at an equal or lower cost. This method uses a combination of smaller seismic sources, narrower cut lines, and irregular pathways to create a unique geometry focused on maintaining sensitive habitat and minimizing surface disturbances, while also providing high quality seismic data and safe access for field personnel.

To further develop their software platform, Andrea Crook, Optiseis president and co-founder, enrolled in a cleantech accelerator program offered by Foresight, an organization that helps to drive the growth, commercialization, and adoption of clean technologies in Western Canada. The 12-week program covered all aspects of business development, from identifying customer needs, team development, product planning and contracting to project implementation. 

However, the most valuable aspect of the course was access to the experienced Executives-in-Residence who provide everything from introductions to funding agencies to contract reviews and general business advice. “Working with them was the highlight of the course.” says Crook. “With their help, we were able to clearly define our needs and access additional funding that we had previously been unaware of. Overall, the Foresight program helped us to move faster along our development pathway.”

For small to medium enterprises looking to evolve a product line to serve the innovation needs of COSIA members, working with an accelerator can be of significant value. Foresight is COSIA’s partner, but there are other accelerators too.

Interested in other stories in our Innovation Hack series? See
•    How technology scans work
•    Engaging with innovators 
•    Propelling start ups to the finish line 

If you’d like to read more about clean tech innovation in the oil sands, sign up for the COSIA newsletter. 

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