June 16, 2023
Innovation takes centre stage
The University of Calgary’s focus on innovation and entrepreneurship is deeply ingrained in its culture. Nowhere was this more evident than when the recent Inventures conference recently hosted the UCalgary Ingenuity Competition.
Presented by the Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking and sponsored by TC Energy, the competition provided a platform for groundbreaking ideas and awarded grants to promising ventures, emphasising UCalgary's dedication to fostering entrepreneurship and creating a vibrant startup ecosystem. The Inventures conference, held in early June, brought together innovators and entrepreneurs from various fields.
The competition showcased remarkable ideas and ventures that have emerged from the university. One of the winners, Turn CO2, exemplifies the power of innovation in addressing pressing challenges. Turn CO2's success story is a testament to UCalgary student and faculty commitment to finding practical solutions to real-world problems through entrepreneurship.
By utilizing cutting-edge technology developed at UCalgary, Turn CO2 is able to capture CO2 generated in breweries from the fermentation process, as well as from other sources within the food and beverage industry. This innovative approach provides a cost-effective and environmentally friendly alternative to purchasing CO2 and has broad implications beyond the brewing industry.
“Breweries don't characterize their trash because they don't know there is treasure there,” says Nick Fylstra, a co-founder of Turn CO2. “Most directly, [our technology] enables us to sniff some ‘beer farts’ with a better nose that can de-risk the technology for both us and our potential customers,” added Fylstra.
The recovered CO2 can be leveraged by breweries to create climate-positive community infotainment events, bringing the next generation of CO2-capture technologies directly to the people through their beer. The reduction of CO2 emissions contributes to mitigating climate change, and the recovered CO2 molecules have multiple potential uses within the brewing industry.
In recognition of their groundbreaking innovation, Turn CO2 was awarded $30,000 through the competition. This significant funding will allow the startup — under the leadership of Fylstra; Dr. Jack Jarvis, PhD’23, MSc’18; and Oliver Calderon — to further develop and scale their technology, bringing their sustainable solution to a wider audience.
“Entrepreneurship is a human endeavour,” says Fylstra. “Getting out of the lab and learning the process of finding the right people to talk to and asking them the right questions played a huge role in honing our value proposition.”
Other ventures recognized at the competition included BioCCM and LEWK. BioCCM’s focus is on sustainable insulation materials derived from food and agricultural waste. LEWK, meanwhile, with its AI-powered virtual fashion stylist, disrupts the fashion industry by providing personalized and engaging online shopping experiences. These ventures exemplify UCalgary’s support for groundbreaking ideas that push the boundaries of traditional industries.
Through their partnership with UCalgary, TC Energy is an example of an organization that is empowering the next generation of innovators and problem-solvers through support of innovative programming. Its support of the competition demonstrates its commitment to inspiring the bright minds of today to help develop tomorrow’s energy solutions.
Through initiatives like the UCalgary Ingenuity Competition, UCalgary continues to empower its students and researchers to transform their ideas into impactful ventures that benefit both the local community and society as a whole.
The university has established several initiatives and programs to support aspiring entrepreneurs and equip them with the necessary tools for success. The Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking plays a pivotal role in fostering an entrepreneurial mindset among students, researchers and the broader community. The Hunter Hub provides mentorship, educational resources, and networking opportunities, creating an environment where innovative ideas can flourish.