Alberta’s oil sands are currently faced with economic and environmental challenges. The
oil sands provide economic benefits both to Alberta and to the rest of Canada. However,
environmental challenges and rising costs are putting the operation of the oil sands at risk. As
this resource is publicly owned, coherent and focused public policies should be put in place
to aid the further development of the oil sands.
Through examining current oil sands trends, it becomes apparent that innovation is a
promising solution to many of the challenges posed to the oil sands today. Increased
productivity is mainly the result of innovation. Further, technological innovation has also
provided the oil sands with improved environmental records and has provided increased
economic efficiencies. Based on the literature available, there is a strong consensus from key
players that innovation has a significant role in creating solutions for challenges in the oil
This paper describes governmental programs, and private institutions which promote
and support innovation within the oil sands industry. As the oil sands and the significance of
innovation, together, are relatively new, academic literature has not addressed this topic. My
research indicates that, although there are efforts currently in place policies and programs to
foster innovation in this industry, there is certainly room for expanding them. Also because
of the lack of publically available evaluation and outcome reports for these policies and
programs, it was difficult to determine the impact that each of these initiatives have had.
As this paper was being written, advancements were already being made to the
promotion of innovation within Alberta. Earlier this summer, the Alberta Innovation Council
was established. It is meant to play a guiding role in Alberta’s innovation future and is
expected to help create a healthy innovation ecosystem within Alberta. It is with optimism,
that I believe this council will help facilitate additional innovation investment within the oil
sands. The key recommendations stemming from my research include: increased focus on
evaluation of all innovation policies and programs, continued collaboration amongst all key
players in the oil sands industry, use regulation and legislation to increase innovation, and
improved focus on ways to incentivize innovation. Lastly, increased financial support from
the governments should be considered as a support mechanism.
Khuu, Amanda. (2014). Innovation Policies in Alberta's Oil Sands ( Unpublished master's thesis). University of Calgary, Calgary, AB.