A long-running awards ceremony that almost didn't happen doled out 42 honours to leaders in science and technology in Alberta in front of a sellout crowd, with 22 of the awards going to Edmonton-area innovators.
The ASTech Awards nearly ceased after 2021, but Technology Alberta stepped in to keep the showcase for science, technology, and innovation alive. A crowd of 300 attended the 33rd annual ceremony at NAIT's Productivity and Innovation Centre on Nov. 4.
"When Technology Alberta had heard that this awards event was in danger of ending in 2021, we rallied our board and the greater community to take on the operating role," Technology Alberta president Gail Powley told Taproot. "And we are so pleased that many, many supporters joined in to make it an outstanding success and celebration."
Powley said planning has already begun for the 2023 awards, which may be held at multiple locations, including some outside of Edmonton and Calgary. She noted the sense of community in the room this year, "inspired by the words of our passionate researchers and entrepreneurs, who are so thankful to their teams and for the community support that has gotten them there."
Among the Edmonton-area winners on the list of award-winners was Mike Zouhri of PainWorth, whose personal-injury claims service won the award for early-career change-maker in the company category. Zouhri noted on LinkedIn that the last time he was at the Innovation Centre at NAIT, he was booed by an audience of pro bono lawyers as he presented his idea.
"I think the message here is to have the courage to follow your beliefs," he wrote. "It's hard. I know. And sometimes you will want to give up or give in; but if you can surround yourself with just enough of the right people who can lift you up when you are feeling darkest, then the courage to push forward becomes a little easier to find."
The Autism CanTech! program at NorQuest College was recognized for promoting inclusion for people with autism and neurodiversity.
"It's such a great honour to have been amongst such great names who also received awards," program manager Jenna Gauthier told Taproot. "This is really recognition for the work our team is doing in the space in trying to promote neurodiversity inclusion, not only in post-secondary, but really in the tech industry, and moving those initiatives forward."
Wilson Analytical Services, which builds field and lab instrumentation for clean-tech measurements, celebrated two wins: the award for regional innovation in St. Albert for co-founders Ken Schmidt and Kathy Janzen, and the award for innovative applications in environmental sustainability for Jonathan Backs, along with Colleen Cassady St. Clair and John Nychka of the University of Alberta, for work on warning systems to reduce train collisions with wildlife.
Tim Carwell of CommAlert won the award for Indigenous-led leadership in community and entrepreneurship. CommAlert ran The Goodwill Project earlier this year to grant a two-year lease to a fully furnished office on Jasper Avenue to a passionate company aiming to change the world, which RUNWITHIT Synthetics won.
The ASTech Awards found RUNWITHIT Synthetics honour-worthy, too, presenting co-founder Dean Bittner with the award for AI/ML applications in adaptive learning and simulation.
The ASTech Awards also recognized these Edmonton-area innovators:
- Sunil Vedula of Nanoprecise for innovative customer applications;
- Omid Ardakanian of the Department of Computing Science at the University of Alberta for AI/ML applications in energy and environmental innovation;
- Aman Ullah of the Faculty of Agricultural, Life and Environmental Sciences and Tariq Siddique of the Department of Renewable Resources at the University of Alberta for environmental innovation in energy applications;
- Future Fields for innovative applications in environmental protection;
- Xiao-Li (Lilly) Pang of the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Alberta for excellence in health research;
- John Lewis of Entos Pharmaceuticals for innovative applications in pharmaceutical interventions;
- Makere Stewart-Harawira, Greg Goss, and Jessica Vandenberghe of I-STEAM Pathways for programs promoting Indigenous people;
- William Fritzberg of Onlea for innovative approaches to learning;
- Richard Glen Uhrig and Michael Taschuk of G2V Optics for applications in agri-food production;
- Colin Tran of NXT-GEN for programs promoting youth;
- Zero Point Cryogenics for early adoption of Alberta innovation;
- Thian Yew Gan of the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Alberta for significant achievement in academia;
- Nicole Janssen and Cory Janssen of AltaML for leadership in Alberta-wide community-building;
- Avtar Mandaher of Sarcomere Dynamics for significant achievement in innovation for a startup company;
- Amanda Schoonmaker, Bin Xu, and Jean-Marie Sobze of NAIT for regional innovation in Peace River;
- The 20/20 Seed Labs team for regional innovation in Nisku.
The ASTech Awards has posted more information on the finalists.