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  • Writer's pictureLenora Thomas

35 Years of Innovation: 1998 ASTech Winners

This post is in partnership with Technology Alberta and the ASTech Awards, celebrating the impact of 35 years of innovation in Alberta, tying our past to our present.

From the birth of Google and the arrival of the iMac to the rise of MP3 players and AI defeating chess champions, 1998 laid the groundwork for the digital world in which we inhabit today.

In Alberta, 1998 was a pivotal year focusing on examining science and technology from different perspectives. The Alberta government provided $20 million in grants disbursed among most public and private institutions, universities, and colleges in Alberta to provide funding for necessary infrastructure and digital technologies to promote collaboration and knowledge transfer. 

The ASTech Awards included winners in journalism, industrial research, zoology and biotechnology. Here are some of the outstanding winners:

The Honorable Premier, Peter Lougheed won a Special ASTech Award in recognition of his spearheading initiatives aimed at bolstering the province's Science and Technology sector. Lougheed furthered the development of oil and gas resources and started the Alberta Heritage Fund to ensure that the exploitation of non-renewable resources would be of long-term benefit to Alberta. Recognizing the significance of economic diversification, Lougheed championed the establishment of the Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund, utilizing proceeds from oil and gas revenues in the fund to fuel future research endeavors across various disciplines. Today, this fund’s value assets earned a return of 4.0 % ($22.1 billion). Another legacy of Premier Lougheed was investment in the development of institutions to support and accelerate a diversified economic landscape. As such, the development of the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research, Alberta Agriculture Research Authority Alberta Oils Sands Research Authority, Alberta Research Council in Edmonton and Calgary, and the Alberta Environmental Laboratories, in Vegreville supported ongoing innovations in future years. Mr. Lougheed was appointed member of the Privy Council of Canada, Companion of the Order of Canada, and the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame.

Wi-LAN Inc. (later renamed to Quarterhill Inc.) was awarded Outstanding Commercial Achievement in Alberta Science and Technology for its innovative wireless networking technologies. Founded in 1992 by Hatim Zaghloul and Michel Fattouche of the University of Calgary, their Wideband Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (W-OFDM) technology, known as "Wireless Local Area Network" (WLAN), became the foundation for the 802.11a Wi-Fi standard, catalyzing a multi-billion dollar market.

John Acorn, currently a Faculty Service Officer at the University of Alberta, was recognized for the ASTech award for Journalism in Science and Technology. Acorn is an internationally known scientist, author and broadcaster whose career has been marked with creativity and a passion for science. The host and creative force behind the popular TV series Acorn, the Nature Nut, as well as a YouTube series, he has educated and entertained audiences worldwide. As a best-selling author, he has had a huge impact on amateur entomology, and his field guides have earned him numerous awards. With over 100 publications (books and articles), Acorn has conveyed his expertise and passion for science communication in areas of biodiversity, ecology, renewable energy and other topics. Acorn is a current lecturer at the Department of Agricultural, Life & Environmental Sciences, University of Alberta, a research associate at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology, and at the E.H. Strickland Entomology Museum. 

Dr. Leo A. Behie was recognized with the ASTech award for Outstanding Leadership in Alberta Technology in 1998.  His groundbreaking research spanned from animal biology to reactor technology,  but he revolutionized biotechnology with advancements like large-scale production of mammalian neural stem cells for treating neurodegenerative disorders like Parkinson's and Huntintong's diseases and developing high-yield gene expression systems for therapeutic protein production. In addition to his contributions to biotechnology, Dr. Behie made significant strides in the energy sector, pioneering new sulphur-reducing reactor technology for pyrolytic upgrading of Canadian heavy oils. His multidisciplinary approach has earned him accolades, including induction as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

Overall in 1998, there were 11 ASTech Award Winners, which you can dig into deeper on the ASTech Website.

Our thanks to Dr. Lisa Carter, Neil Gould and Horazio Carletti for their time in helping craft this blog!

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