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The Alberta government is pumping an additional $5 million into a program to help small and medium companies and entrepreneurs create jobs and develop high-tech ideas into commercial products.
That’s on top of $4.1 million already funnelled into the program. It has allowed companies such as Pleasant Solutions, which hires out software developers and works in the security and password field, create one permanent job for every $15,000 in such grants.
Absolute Combustion International has used its $100,000 in various program vouchers to develop a combustion chamber that creates heat with natural gas and propane with a method that pumps out 35 per cent less carbon dioxide.
Alberta Party Leader Greg Clark called the $5 million “small potatoes” that “means next to nothing.”
“They are just nibbling around the edges,” Clark said. “We need much, much more than this.”
Deron Bilous, minister of Economic Trade and Development, said the move is part of the government’s larger plan to create jobs and drive diversity.
“The global drop in the price of oil is having a major impact on our economy, businesses and families. While we have no control over the global price of oil, we do control how we respond to it,” Bilous said.
“We’re working on getting access to markets for Alberta’s products, including pipelines for our energy products and focusing on diversification with renewed focus on innovation and value-added.”
The $5 million will be paid out in about 200 vouchers each year, up from the 120 per year now, worth between $5,000 and $100,000 each. It will pay for 12 technology experts, up from the current six, who offer business, financial and technical advice to companies.
Hank Mottl, director of engineering for Absolute Combustion International, said his company used his money to field-test the combustion tank with major oilsands players to prove it works. Another company was set to install it for a large project until the economy tanked.
“The scale of this is just so vast,” Mottl said. “This isn’t just oil and gas. This could be metallurgy. This could be heating buildings, greenhouses … barns.”
“We’re moving to the area of not just reducing the CO2, but actually eliminating completely, capturing it, turning it into something that can be used for other things,” Mottl said. “We would have had a really rocky road if we were not able to get access to these programs.”
Program’s name: The Enhanced Innovation Voucher and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Support program