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Innovation

InnovationInnovation is a social and economic process involving the introduction, development and adaptation of new ideas and marketable products and services.

According to the educational research project “The Four Pillars of Innovation” conducted by the Conference Board of Canada, the factors that create a context for innovation are leadership, people, culture and climate, and structures and processes.

Throughout the history of Alberta many of these elements have been in place as there are many patents for new inventions from all periods. There has been an ongoing need to invent new machines and methods to exploit the vast natural resources found in Alberta. From the beginning, early settlers needed more effective ploughs to break the heavy sod, spelling the start of the agricultural industry. As more cultivation was carried out, many farmers found the equipment from eastern Canada less than effective in western conditions and were soon building their own or making improvements to what could be purchased. The same can be said in the rest of Alberta’s major industries.

Windmill farmCoal mining brought about many patents as more effective machinery was needed. These machines included the magnetic ore separator, and a coal-cutting machine.

There have also been many innovations in the oil industry, especially in regard to advances in the extraction of oil from the oil sands that are so abundant in Alberta. In 1920, Dr. Karl Clark was working on the process to separate the bitumen from the sand and developed processes that are still being used today.

Educational institutions provide the right culture and climate for innovation. Alberta has a successful education system, with several of the country’s leading post-secondary schools in research. One of Alberta’s most notable innovators, James Gosling, was educated at the University of Calgary.

Throughout Alberta's history there have been many opportunities to invent that has brought about effective machines and processes now used around the world. Invention and innovation have been critical elements in the story of Alberta.

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