The Process at Work
Working in Alberta's oil and gas industry, Calgary-based BW Technologies is a shining example of the innovation process at work in Alberta.
In roughly half of the province's oil-drilling operations, a serious danger exists in the form of poisonous gases, including hydrogen sulphide, sulphur dioxide, ammonias and combustibles. The effects of these can range from the numbing of the senses to, as is the case with hydrogen sulphide, unconsciousness or death.
When Cody Slater was an astrophysics student at the University of Alberta in the 1980s, he became aware of these dangerous conditions in the oil industry. Researching deeper, he found that most gas monitoring equipment was expensive and took at least a day to set up and dismantle. Seeing an opportunity, Slater decided to build a portable and less expensive system. The result was the "Rig Rat," the first portable, gas-monitoring device for the oil industry. The unit was solar-powered and considerably less expensive than concurrent technology.
At first, Slater admits, he had intended to build a few of the devices and sell them in order to fund his education. As he developed the technology, however, he realized the potential for forming a
profitable company. Following the progression of the innovation process at work in Alberta, using his own funds, Slater patented his technology. He then drew on his personal savings, secured the help of a few investors, and approached and secured guidance and financial support from Western Economic Diversification (WED). The result was the founding of BW Technologies in 1987.
Alberta Innovation 2002 Video:
The Innovation Process at work, Cody Slater's BW Technologies.
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From there, vision and ingenuity served Slater well. As President and CEO of the company, he oversaw an aggressive effort to make personalized gas-monitoring devices that were easy to operate and disposable into a reality. Despite initial industry reluctance, BW Technologies developed their products rapidly and at such affordable prices that soon their devices were world renowned and the leading industry standard. From firefighters in France to oil miners in the United Arab Emirates to the United States Coast Guard, the use of these tiny monitors is seemingly limitless. At the end of the 1990s, BW Technologies profits were growing by 40
percent annually for six years running, and in 2001 their earnings reached $39 million. The future for the organization is bright, with the potential market share estimated to be around $1 billion for the type of technology the company produces.
Showing no signs of slowing down, Cory Slater and BW Technologies are an Albertan success story which clearly demonstrates the equation of progression in innovation: idea + vision + finance + invention + commercialization + perseverance + leadership = the process at work.
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