Hello everyone and welcome to today’s seminar on the NRCan and Impact Oil Spill Response Challenge. My name is Ashley Mercer, and I am the Director of the Federal Science and Tech Programs and Policy division here at the Office of Energy Research and Development at Natural Resources Canada…

I am really excited today for this webinar and the opportunity to discuss with each of you the Oil Spill Response Challenge.  

I would like to start by acknowledging that the land on which we gather are the traditional territories of the Algonquin Anishnaabeg people. Today we will be providing an informational webinar on the Oil Spill Response Challenge, which is a collaboration between Impact Canada and Natural Resources Canada, or sometimes I may say NRCan. NRCan is Natural Resources Canada. This Challenge encourages innovators to develop rapidly deployable solutions to detect oil spills and to increase the oil spill recovery rate in a Canadian context.

Joined with me here today are Vivian Harbers, Marija McIntosh, and Juno Garrah. Vivian will be providing an overview of the application process, and Marija and Juno will be compiling your questions in the chat to be addressed in our Questions & Answers period at the end of the session.

Before we begin our webinar, I would like to just cover a few housekeeping items. To begin with, the intent of this webinar is to provide you with the necessary information to assess whether this Challenge is right for you, and more broadly to provide an overview of the Challenge process. 

We will do our best to cover the basics today, but encourage you to ask questions as we go.  You can do this by typing your questions into the Questions pane in the Zoom control panel. So you are aware, we will answer questions at the end of the session, and the questions and answers from today’s session will be compiled, summarized, and posted on our Official Challenge website in the coming weeks.

Due to the number of people participating today in the webinar, we ask that you make best use of everyone's time and don’t ask particularly project-specific questions.  Instead, please send those to our Challenge mailbox, which you can see on the screen. It’s the very long email there.

If at anytime during the webinar you experience technical difficulties, please let us know either through the question pane or via email, my team is supporting all of the webinar in the background and will endeavour to support you with any technical difficulties.

I am kicking off today’s webinar with a bit of an overview of who we, the Office of Energy Research and Development, are. Then I will hand things over to Vivian who will provide an overview of the Challenge and objectives, the submission and evaluation processes, and the resources for applicants. 

Throughout the presentation, Juno and Marija will be monitoring and compiling all your questions as I said, and we will address them in that final Q&A period.

Within NRCan, the Oil Spill Response Challenge is housed in the Office of Energy Research and Development or as I might sometimes say, OERD. This office leads the Government of Canada’s efforts in delivering energy research, development, and demonstration programming and funding, accelerating efforts in energy innovation and cleantech programming. OERD has a long standing history of over forty five years of delivering funding programs in the clean energy innovation space. 

With a focus on influencing the pace and direction of energy system transformation, the office of energy r&d targets the most impactful technologies to maximize environmental and economic outcomes. 
The other government department that’s involved – or program rather – is the Impact Canada program, which is a Government of Canada-wide effort to helps departments accelerate the adoption of innovative funding approaches to deliver meaningful results to and for Canadians. The Impact challenge platform is a core component of the Oil Spill Response initiative. It allows the Government of Canada departments, including NRCan, to undertake these initiatives and to issue challenges on a common site to reach a diverse group of problem solvers and innovators like yourself.

Since 2017, NRCan has run a number of these challenges, and the oil spill response challenge is the next iteration within that program frame.

Thank you all for being here today, I really do appreciate your interest in the program. So I’m going to pass it over to Vivian who will continue to speak about the Challenge structure and application process, digging right into the depths and the guts of the application process itself.

Thank you Ashley, I will begin with an overview of the Challenge itself and its objectives. 

The Oil Spill Response Challenge aims to improve oil spill response in Canada by supporting solutions aimed at improving detection and recovery outcomes. Specifically, the goals of the challenge are to: 

  • Mobilize innovators to spur the rapid development and deployment of new oil spill response technologies.
  • Accelerate the development of rapidly deployable solutions that effectively detect oil spills and improve response times or that increase the oil spill recovery rate; and
  • Expand the suite of available oil spill response technologies for use in Canadian marine and freshwater environments

The Challenge will assess technologies through two streams: detection, to improve data availability and accuracy to inform oil spill response measures; and recovery, to clean up oil spills in aquatic environments to the fullest extent possible and expedite environmental recovery.

The Detection Stream focuses on accelerating the development of innovative solutions that reduce the amount of time elapsed between the start of an oil spill in fresh and saltwater and the time in which it is detected, decreased, and/or eliminated. The type and accuracy of oil spill-related data being collected and aggregated to inform spill response is significantly expanded.

This stream covers all technologies involved in spill detection, data collection and analysis to inform timely and evidence-based decision-making during an oil spill emergency response. For the detection stream, solutions are expected to achieve at least one of the following results:

  • Real-time detection of an oil spill
  • Collect / model oil spill data such as the spatial extent (breadth and depth) of the spill, estimate the magnitude of the release, the rate of release, and determine the composition of the spilled oil, salinity of water (for estuarine environments), or a combination of these capabilities; OR
  • Provide a data analytics solution to facilitate the aggregation, consolidation and analysis of data pertinent to an oil spill response such as weather data, oil spill data (as described above), and emergency response crew location

In the detection stream, types of Solutions could include, but are not limited to, technologies such as surface (satellite, aircraft, glider, other remote sensing technologies, etc.) or subsurface (autonomous or manned underwater vehicles, etc.) detection, laboratory analytical methods transferrable to spill responders, Artificial Intelligence, computer modelling, and data analytics products to aggregate data sets necessary to inform response during and after an oil spill.

Since Impact Canada Challenges are targeted towards known problems with unknown solutions, they are designed to attract new innovators and ideas, catalyze rapid launch and scale, and foster collaboration amongst both conventional and non-conventional groups. As such, the list of possible solutions you see here is non-exhaustive, and innovators with novel or untraditional technologies are welcome and encouraged to submit an application.

The Recovery Stream focuses on the development and deployment of innovative solutions that increase and expedite the recovery of oil spilt into Canada’s diverse aquatic environments. It covers the wide breadth of technologies designed to maximize oil recovery through methods such as containment, collection, treatment, or biodegradation.

In the recovery stream, types of solutions can include, but are not limited to innovative adaptations to conventional mechanical recovery technologies (e.g. skimmers, booms), and alternative response measures (e.g. chemical treatment, spill treating agents, herders, in-situ burning, surface washing agents, advanced sorbents).

As in the detection stream, we want to reiterate that this Challenge has been designed attract new innovators and ideas, and the list of possible solutions you see here is non-exhaustive. Non-traditional and novel technologies are welcomed in both streams of the Challenge. 

For both the recovery and detection streams, solutions need to apply to salt and/or freshwater, and innovators are encouraged to demonstrate the effectiveness of their technologies to the fullest extent possible using various oils (light, medium, heavy) and under various conditions under which an oil spill in Canada would typically be found (turbulent waters, immersed or sunken oil, ice or icy waters, remote locations).

Next we will discuss the submission and evaluation process.

Eligible applicants to the Challenge include the following:

  • Businesses or other for-profit organizations
  • Not-for-profit organizations
  • Indigenous organizations and groups
  • Post-secondary/academic institutions
  • Individual or group of individuals
  • International individuals and entities

Note that individual innovators or groups are encouraged to submit an application to the challenge, but in order to be eligible to receive funding, the project lead will be required to establish a Canadian legal entity (such as a company or a corporation or a not-for-profit organization) capable of entering into binding agreements in Canada.

If you are an international company on the line today, we will not be answering questions about becoming a legal entity in Canada.  This is outside our expertise, but if you do have specific questions please send to our inbox.   

If you meet all of the criteria I have gone over so far and you think this may be the program for you, we highly recommend you apply.  

The Challenge Application process consists of four steps. 

  • Step 1 – read the applicant guide and FAQ page in full. Both can be found on the official Challenge website. 
  • Step 2 – Register for the Collaboration Community, which is an online platform designed to allow you to connect virtually with other Challenge applicants, industry experts, and regulators. 
  • Step 3 – Develop your application using the online Application Form, which you can save and return to as needed. 
  • Step 4 – Submit your application and all required supporting documents through the online Portal by June 1st, 2022 at 11:59 Pacific Time. Note that this is a firm deadline, and applications submitted after this date will not be considered.  
  • Applications submitted by the deadline and satisfying all selection criteria will undergo a technical evaluation. We will convene a review committee of public and private sector subject matter experts (e.g., representatives from the private sector, stakeholder groups, oil spill response regime experts) to assist in the assessment of applications. 

Solutions will be assessed against the following six criteria:

  • Effectiveness: – (Detection Stream) The amount of time elapsed between the start of an oil spill in fresh or saltwater and the time in which it is detected is significantly decreased, and/or eliminated. The type and accuracy of oil spill-related data being collected and aggregated to inform spill response is significantly expanded; OR (Recovery Stream) The amount of recovery of oil spilt into aquatic environments has increased through enhanced or expedited environmental recovery.
  • Applicability - To develop a solution that can be applied within the environments and conditions present across Canada (e.g. operating environment, oil type, challenging conditions, scalability)
  • Environmental Sustainability - Adverse impacts on the environment through the deployment of the oil spill technology are minimized.
  • Innovativeness - The design approaches the problem of oil spill detection and/or recovery in an innovative way.
  • Usability - Operational effectiveness and practicality of solution for end-users, including logistics and resource requirements to safely deploy the solution are realistic and feasible.
  • Market-Readiness – Ability of innovators to bring their solution to market and scale their technology for deployment.

Now to provide a quick overview of the Challenge Process and Prizes.
The Challenge officially launched on March 9th, and applications are being accepted until the end of Stage 1, on June 1st, 2022 at 11:59 Pacific time. In this first stage, applicants are competing to receive up to $300,000 and the chance to become a Semi-

Finalist to move onto Stage 2. 

Stage 2 involves Incubation and Development of Prototypes. Those 10 semi-finalists selected at the end of Stage 1 will receive up to $300,000 each for the development of their technology. These Semi-Finalists will then have one year to develop their prototype.

At stage 2, Semi-Finalists will be competing to receive up to $1M each and the chance to become a Finalist in Stage 3 of the Challenge. Other non-monetary benefits may be offered to participants at this stage.
Stage 3 is Early-Stage Demonstration. Up to 5 finalists whose prototypes showed the most promise in Stage 2 will be selected to move on to Stage 3. At this stage, finalists will have one year to accelerate and scale up their solutions and conduct an early-stage demonstration. Participants will be required to rigorously test and evaluate the effectiveness of their solutions and report on their results. Finalists at this stage are competing to become the Grand Prize Winner, who will receive up to $2M in grant funding.

In preparation for submitting your application, we strongly encourage all applicants to register for the Collaboration community. As mentioned previously, the Clean Growth Collaboration Community (CGCC) is a matchmaking platform, bringing together key players from  various Clean Tech communities. Within this platform, the Oil Spill Response section will allow you to connect with other applicants, industry experts, and regulators, share documents, links and other resources, and stay up-to date on NRCan news like programs, policy etc.

In addition to the Collaboration Community, we encourage applicants to frequently visit the official challenge website at imipact.Canada.ca to stay up-to-date with any news or announcements. If you would like to be added to our mailing list, please write to us at the email address listed on the screen. Note that this address is also available by visiting the Official Challenge Website. 

Thank you for your interest in the Oil Spill Response Challenge. This concludes the presentation portion of our webinar, and we will now take some time to respond to your questions, which Marija and Juno have been compiling from the chat..