The Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) supports the clean technologies industrial sector through its applied research centres and innovation services, and by teaching students the skills they need to succeed in the emerging low-carbon economy.
NAIT's applied research and industry partnerships cover a wide range of areas including oil sands reclamation, reforestation, industrial waste reduction, renewable energy, food sustainability and more, says Applied Bio/Nanotechnology Industrial Research Chair Dr. Paolo Mussone. "There is a major window of opportunity for graduates from technology and skilled trades programs in the emerging green economy, and NAIT is providing them with the skills they need to be successful. Additionally, through collaborative projects within its applied research centres, NAIT is helping industry adapt and de-risk new clean technologies," he says.
The energy sector plays an important role in the Alberta economy, so it's not surprising flagship projects address issues and concerns related to reclamation and conservation in the oil patch. Dr. Amanda Schoonmaker is heading up a project at NAIT's Boreal Research Institute designed to ensure reforestation follows the decommissioning of energy extraction sites. "Historically, soil stockpiles created as a result of industrial activity, which would be used for final reclamation, were vulnerable to invasion by opportunistic species that were undesirable for forest regeneration," explains Dr. Schoonmaker, NSERC Industrial Research Chair in Boreal Reclamation and Reforestation. "Our project is looking at cost-effective ways to reforest the soil stockpiles with native species, limiting the intrusion of opportunistic species, and providing other benefits that will aid in the final reclamation process."
Dr. Mussone, with NAIT's Centre for Sensors and Systems Integration, is collaborating with industry on a sustainability-related project to develop a sensor technology to monitor the biological remediation of land contaminated by old, leaky fuel tanks, potentially remediating sites in a few years, instead of decades. The result is land that can be redeveloped and used by owners and surrounding communities much faster.
Dr. Mussone says applied research projects like these provide opportunities for technicians and students to work on real-world problems, providing them with hands-on experience in existing industrial and commercial sectors. NAIT is uniquely positioned to support industry in adopting clean technology and transitioning to a low-carbon economy in a rapidly changing world. "Our applied research programs are, by definition, industry driven and designed to deliver measurable economic impact. All of our projects respond to specific industry needs, enabling the applied research teams to continually hone their skills to address industry challenges today, with an eye to the future," he explains.
Dr. Schoonmaker adds that graduates are entering the workforce with not just a skill set, but a different attitude and understanding about the importance of sustainability. "Students are working on applied research projects within active industrial developments; the hands-on experience of working with operators while conducting research studies provides a unique perspective," she says.
This content was produced by Randall Anthony Communications, in partnership with The Globe and Mail's advertising department. The Globe's editorial department was not involved in its creation.