The Alberta Chamber of Resources (ACR) recently honoured Dr. John Zhou with their 2023 Technology and Innovation Leadership Award. As Chief Cleantech Officer & Vice President, Clean Resources, John is responsible for innovation in energy, agriculture, cleantech, and sustainability at Alberta Innovates.

Resource industries are the lifeblood of the Alberta and Canadian economies, and the ACR presents these resource awards to celebrate the companies, communities and individuals who responsibly research, innovate, develop, process, transport, market, and support our natural resources. The Awards recognize the contributions made to the resource sector in areas such as Indigenous engagement and inclusion, technology and innovation leadership, youth leadership and responsible development.

“The Alberta Chamber of Resources is thrilled to be presenting our very first Technology and Innovation Leadership Award to Dr. John Zhou,” said Scott Hierath, Executive Director, Alberta Chamber of Resources. “Through his many innovative projects, Dr. Zhou has supported the advancement of Alberta’s natural resource industries and we are honoured to be able to recognize his work.”

In his role at Alberta Innovates, John oversees corporate strategy for cleantech and sustainable resource development, as well as providing operations leadership for the Clean Resources business line. He leads strategic initiatives, develops collaborations opportunities, and provides expertise to stakeholders in shaping GHG mitigation, climate adaptation, and clean economy transition plans and programs.

“I am so honoured and humbled to get this tremendous recognition from Alberta Chamber of Resources, said John Zhou. “My appreciation goes out to many colleagues (too many to name individually) at my Alberta Innovates family (including InnoTech Alberta, and C-FER Technologies), University of Alberta, University of Calgary, Clean Resource Innovation Network (CRIN), Petroleum Technology Alliance Canada, Pathways Alliance, Government of Alberta, and many private companies.”

Over a career which has included many milestones and significant achievements, John has been a researcher, inventor, manager, executive, and in addition to his work with Alberta Innovates sits on a number of industry boards and committees.

Some of his numerous career highlights include holding or co-holding seven U.S. patents, two of which led to multimillion-dollar commercial success through licence fees and royalties for Alberta Innovates’ predecessor Alberta Research Council. John founded and led the international consortium Materials and Reliability in Oil Sands (MARIOS) that brought together over 25 companies during a recession to address the $3 billion-per-year industry-wide maintenance and reliability issues in oil sands mining. Today, the consortium is still going strong and has grown to include over 50 member companies.

John led a key Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) initiative which included supporting a feasibility study for the $1.3 billion Shell Quest project. He also co-led two international workshops on carbon capture in 2011 and 2012 that resulted in 12 carbon capture technologies tested in Alberta.

In 2016, John developed and has been driving the vision for Bitumen Beyond Combustion (BBC). This transformative initiative develops technologies to convert oil sands components into non-combustion products such as carbon fibre, asphalt binder, activated carbon, and other high value carbon materials. BBC has the potential to create a multibillion-dollar advanced materials manufacturing industry in Alberta utilizing the province’s vast bitumen resource and reducing combustion-related GHG emissions.

“I’m very passionate about Bitumen Beyond Combustion (BBC) and see this as the future for Alberta's oil sands resources, particularly in a net zero economy,” said Zhou. “It opens up so many opportunities for bitumen to be a part of the solution to climate change.”

Over the years, John’s work on programs such as BBC, Climate Change Innovation and Technology Framework, TIER (Technology Innovation and Emission Reduction) Economic Recovery Program and the Hydrogen Centre of Excellence, to name but a few, has contributed Alberta’s leadership position in innovative, sustainable resource development.

With roots going back to 1936, the Alberta Chamber of Resources (ACR) provides cross-sectoral perspectives and leadership on resource opportunities and challenges in Alberta’s resource sector. Areas of focus include Indigenous and community consultation, regulatory reform, evolving ESG expectations, land use planning and supportive policy development to encourage investment.

“Dr. Zhou is truly deserving of this award and exemplifies all the qualities of a technology and innovation leader,” added Hierath. “He is a leader and supporter of responsible resource development in the province.”

Congratulations Dr. Zhou on this much-deserved honour and your significant impact on our province's environmental and industrial sectors.