Sept. 26, 2013

University announces new energy research strategy

Building a global hub for energy innovations

The University of Calgary announced a new energy research strategy — Energy Innovations for Today and Tomorrow — during its annual Community Report. This new strategy is one of six research themes outlined in the university’s research plan.

“The University of Calgary is located at the core of the energy industry of Canada,” says Ed McCauley, vice-president (research). “This access presents an opportunity and responsibility for our university to be the leader in Canada — and one of the few leaders in the world — in high-impact energy research.

“Our university has tremendous capacity to address the fundamental challenges associated with ensuring safe, clean and secure energy supplies and responsible environmental stewardship.”

In the coming year, the university will move more deeply into implementing its comprehensive energy research strategy under the leadership of Chris Clarkson, professor and EnCana-AITF (Alberta Innovates Technology Futures) Chair in Unconventional Gas and Light Oil Research.

“We have a great potential to be not only the top energy school in Canada, but also among the best in the U.S. and internationally,” says Clarkson, who spent a dozen years in the petroleum industry before coming to the university.

Interdisciplinary collaboration is key

Solving the complex problems around securing a safe and prosperous energy future requires contributions from multiple disciplines. A major element of the energy research strategy is the formation of a self-organized “confederation of scholars” to generate interdisciplinary collaboration that can advance energy research.

Energy Innovations for Today and Tomorrow has identified four research themes directly related to shaping energy investigation. The themes are known collectively as DEEP: Discover new sources, Extract with minimal environmental impact, Export to new markets, and Plan for the future.

This new plan has also identified a set of four Grand Challenges that cut across these themes:

  • Unconventional hydrocarbon resources
  • Hydraulic fracturing
  • Toward low-carbon energy
  • Cumulative effects of energy-related processes


As scholars work together, they will seek major funding opportunities from provincial, national, and international sources. The university will provide $1 million in matching funds to assist these scholars in developing partnerships and competing for external funds. The university will also recruit over 30 new assistant professors, postdoctoral scholars and research chairs to work on priority energy research topics. A further $1 million from external sources will be used to fund activities to build research collaborations and share our research outcomes with the world.

What’s next

The energy research strategy will be implemented through a series of events over the next academic year including: workshops aimed at promoting research and commercialization activities, a speakers’ series at the downtown campus, and an international conference that will serve as a test bed for the research roadmaps created at preceding workshops. The energy research strategy’s ultimate goal is to create a model where major research advances can be made within the next five years.

Background: University of Calgary Strategic Research Plan

The Academic Plan and the Research Plan are the roadmaps through which the University of Calgary will achieve its Eyes High strategic direction to become one of Canada’s top five research-intensive universities by 2016, grounded in innovative thinking and teaching, and fully integrated with the community of Calgary.

In addition to the theme of Energy Innovations for Today and Tomorrow, the university is building strength in five other multidisciplinary strategic research themes: Brain and Mental Health; Human Dynamics in a Changing WorldNew Earth-Space TechnologiesEngineering Solutions for Health; and Infections, Inflammation and Chronic Diseases in the Changing Environment.