KAST and Foresight Leading Transition to Net Zero in the Kootenays

A dynamic partnership between the Kootenay Association for Science and Technology (KAST) and Foresight Canada’s BC Net Zero Innovation Network (BCNZIN) is driving the transition to a cleaner, greener and sustainable future for Kootenays.    

As the technology-focused economic development association for the Kootenay region, KAST is dedicated to providing entrepreneurs and businesses with the support they need to thrive.  Foresight is Canada’s cleantech accelerator and was contracted by KAST in 2022 to coordinate two consultation sessions in the East and West Kootenays.

Innovation Essential for Industry and Communities

The project is the first consultation of its kind between industry and innovators aimed at creating specific cleantech projects in the Kootenay region.

“Collaboration among innovators, investors, industry, government and academia is essential in the drive to a clean transition,” points out Sam Farrell, East Kootenay Director for KAST. “KAST has worked with Foresight before, and we know it has the extra teeth when it comes to these kinds of events.”

A total of 46 stakeholders turned for the sessions in Cranbrook and Nelson in May 2022, spanning home builders, mining exploration companies, internet service providers, as well as academic institutions, First Nations, and municipal governments. Participants discussed the unique challenges and opportunities facing Kootenay-based communities to reduce their carbon footprint.  The in-person format also provided an opportunity for participants to showcase existing cleantech projects, and gain valuable feedback on their approaches, including how to leverage resources and source funding.

The Economic Trust of Southern Interior (ETSI-BC) supported the project through its Innovating and Advancing Key Sectors funding stream which encourages transition to a net zero economy. “Regions with an effective cleantech strategy will be more resilient, competitive and sustainable,” points out Laurel Douglas, CEO of ETSI-BC. “New job creation, a more diversified economy, and new technologies, products and services are among the benefits that will be realized on the road to net zero.”

The initiative is also supported by PacifiCan, the BC Ministry of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation, and Columbia Valley Community Economic Development. 

Collaboration is the Path Forward

Capacity building was identified as a major challenge throughout the region.  Participants said most small to medium-sized businesses, municipalities and regional governments lack the time and expertise to research, develop or deliver innovative projects. Attendees supported moving to a model where municipalities across the Kootenays pool resources to cut costs, and organizations share what they learn through their cleantech projects with other communities.

With transportation accounting for 70 percent of emissions in the Regional District of Central Kootenay, the need for a sustainable, resilient, and better-connected transportation system to move people and goods efficiently across the region was expressed. 

Ways of handing residual forestry waste, and the need for battery recycling hubs were also explored. In the area of agri-tech, a potential Community Sea Can Farm Project was highlighted which would require less food being transported into the region, reduce transportation-related emissions and drive food costs down.

Other challenges include lack of awareness about cleantech solutions, how to integrate them into existing systems, and attracting skilled workers needed for cleantech projects.

The Cranbrook event was held in a historic venue owned and operated by the Ktunaxa Nation, enhancing the connection between technology, industry and Indigenous communities. Extensive discussion took place between the City of Cranbrook and Aq’am and Akisq’nuk First Nations to develop a renewable energy facility at the Cranbrook Airport. 

From Assessment to Implementation

This project’s impact has extended well beyond the consultation events. New cleantech projects have been identified. Foresight Canada has gained a tangible presence in the Kootenays, paving the way for strong, long-term relationships with stakeholders and rightsholders.

KAST, the BCNZIN and other regional partners are building on the information from the recent sessions.  Once the projects are refined, Foresight will reconvene the participants to create priorities, facilitate working groups and fundraising, and initiate priority projects.

More News & Stories