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WATCH: Business is booming in Leduc with several companies now calling the Edmonton International Airport home. As Margeaux Maron tells us, small tech startups are getting big support at EIA.

Technology entrepreneur Koleya Karringten didn’t know her company’s product had potential in the aviation industry.

“We design burner systems that dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said Karringten, with Absolute Combustion International.

Servicing the energy industry out of the Leduc industrial park, Karringten was invited on an aviation trade mission to Japan with representatives from the county. That’s where she first met the operations team with Edmonton International Airport.

“The first thing they showed us was an aircraft heater,” said Karringten.

The current technology hadn’t been redesigned in about 60 years, and was highly fuel inefficient.

“They said: ‘Your technology adapted into this would be a huge efficiency gain,’” said Karringten.

EIA helped the ACI team develop its aircraft heater prototype at the new facility next to the airport, getting the team access to airplanes on site.

“They worked with us every step of the way to make sure that what we created was exactly what the industry wanted,” said Karringten.

The plan is to get the heaters into airports across Canada by this winter, with EIA taking a seven per cent royalty fee on all units sold.

“Without the support of the airport, I don’t know if ACI would still be here,” said Karringten.

Technology incubation at the Edmonton International Airport

Technology development and commercialization is not what comes to mind when you think about an airport authority, but that’s exactly what’s happening at EIA.

“It’s about bringing these companies together and helping incubate on-site,” said Steve Maybee, vice president of Operations and Infrastructure at EIA.

When EIA identifies a local technology that could be used in an aviation context, it focuses on attracting those firms as tenants.

Seven startup tech companies currently call EIA home, benefiting from various elements of risk reduction for their business. This could be discounted rent, access to aviation expertise, or valuable introductions within EIA’s network of partners.

Keeping new technologies and entrepreneurs in the Edmonton region is the goal.

“We’ve got a huge amount of entrepreneurs [in the] tech sector and it’s leveraging that,” said Maybee. “We want to retain those people in Alberta.”

The newly created Alberta Centre for Advanced MNT Products (ACAMP) furthers this strategy, providing young entrepreneurs with access to space, mentoring, and assistance in raising capital.

“This is an enormous opportunity for Alberta to enable the creation of highly skilled jobs in advanced technologies,” said Ken Brizel, the CEO of ACAMP. “And also create opportunities for entrepreneurs to take their product proof of concepts to market.”