Local groups partner for shot at $20M XPrize

Article Date: December 12, 2016
By Elliot Ferguson, Kingston Whig-Standard

KINGSTON – A clean technology company is partnering with local businesses and institutions to help researchers chasing solutions to one of the “grand challenges” facing humanity.

Enviro Innovate, based at Innovation Park, is working with Queen’s University, DuPont, GreenCentre Canada, the Kingston Economic Development Corporation and Kingston Process Metallurgy to provide support for teams competing for the $20 million NRG COSIA Carbon XPrize.

The competition is meant to promote technological solutions to carbon dioxide (CO2) pollution, one of the leading causes of global warming and climate change.

Researchers are being encouraged to develop technology to use captured carbon dioxide to make new products or fuel sources.

“The reason this is so important is because the market for the utilization of CO2 is very, very limited,” explained Tom Thompson, Chief Executive Officer of Enviro Innovate, an affiliate of Boston-based Enviro Ambient Corporation.

“If one can take captured CO2 and turn it into something that will make a company money then that will incentivize industrials and utilities to more readily procure and deploy technologies to capture CO2 and then allow them convert it into something else.”

Enviro Innovate is part of a clean technology cluster designed to attract startups and established companies looking to commercialize or acquire innovative technologies.

The centre’s work with the Carbon XPrize, which wraps up in 2020, could involve up to 30 international teams working with the centre to develop their technologies.

Through the partnership, researchers will have access to the CO2 Capture and Conversion Research, Development and Commercialization Centre, which includes the opportunity to use a company-developed technology for capturing CO2 emissions from coal- and natural gas-fueled industrial processes.

Thompson said the Carbon XPrize, and the greater attention being paid to finding a solution to CO2 emissions, gives Kingston an opportunity to become a world leader in the field.

“Saying ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’ is probably being a little too dramatic, but this is a marvellous opportunity for the city to really embrace the whole notion of clean tech innovation and what that means to the economy in the short, medium and long term,” he said.

If properly developed, CO2 capture and conversion could generate hundreds of jobs in Southeastern Ontario, Thompson added.

“Our vision and our mandate is to not only bring clean technologies through the research, development and commercialization process to create viable businesses, but ultimately to have those viable businesses maintain themselves in Southeastern Ontario, in the Kingston region, which is a key economic development driver and opportunity for the city and the region,” Thompson said.

The technology the teams create for the Carbon XPrize will likely be of interest to governments and large industrial companies. Thompson said the competition is a short-term goal on a much longer time scale.

“Chances are that whoever wins the competition is still not going to be anywhere near to being able to take that to the commercial stage that will be procured in the short run,” he said.