Regional Innovation Networks help to clear the road for innovation

Mar 6, 2018

When you’re hitting the road for a longer trip, running out of gas is one thing. Running out of charge is quite another. With this in mind, the Regional Innovation Network of Southern Alberta (RINSA) is supporting options for drivers of electric cars.

Regional Innovation Networks, of which RINSA is a part, are innovation nodes made up of like-minded public organizations that help small technology and knowledge-based businesses innovate and grow. They help to build a strong entrepreneurial culture in Alberta by working with small- to medium-sized businesses. Alberta Innovates provides technology commercialization advice, mentorship and access to program support and equipment through the RINs.

“Range anxiety is one of the greatest social barriers to electric vehicle adoption,” said Megan Lohmann of the Community Energy Association (CEA), a British Columbia-based charitable non-profit organization that works nation-wide to help local communities move forward on climate and energy initiatives. “Drivers want the ‘freedom’ to be able to travel where they want to travel – even if it is for the once-a-year road trip, or weekend ski vacation. Electric vehicle adoption will be hampered if drivers feel they cannot continue to have freedom of movement due to a lack of infrastructure.”

In the summer of 2017, Alberta SouthWest Regional Alliance and SouthGrow Regional Initiative, two partners within RINSA, announced their collaboration with the CEA, along with the cities of Calgary, Lethbridge and Medicine Hat to develop a plan to create a regional, electric vehicle charging station network that can connect the BC network (Accelerate Kootenays) to an extensive network of installations throughout Southern Alberta.

Seeing a unique opportunity to partner with other organizations and regions, RINSA sponsored and actively supported strategy planning meetings. The local Technology Development Advisor Bill Halley was intrigued by the concept and began follow-up sessions with the regional partners as well as Parks Canada with a view to having stations located in provincial/national parks. “As an extension of Alberta Innovates partnership with the Regional Innovation Network, I thought this was a great opportunity to highlight how we work together to support technological, which could support the adoption of electric vehicles in a wider context,” said Halley.

Alberta SouthWest Regional Alliance and SouthGrow Regional Initiative have since each committed funds for the preliminary electric vehicle strategy and the development of an application to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities for support to get the project underway.

“The strength of RINSA is the relationships, collaboration and information-sharing. Bill provides the positive and energetic support that helps move great ideas forward,” said Bev Thornton, Executive Director of the Alberta SouthWest Regional Alliance.

A regional network of charging stations will provide potential electric vehicle adopters the confidence to travel outside of their communities. This collaboration aims to provide the base network that will stimulate a transition to electric vehicles, and create the opportunity for future investments in expanded infrastructure.

Main photo – Alberta Southwest Moun tain roads: Highway 3 west of Pincher Creek (credit Alberta SouthWest Regional Alliance.)