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  • Writer's pictureLenora Thomas

35 Years of Innovation: 2000 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.

For those who remember the turn of the millennium, 2000 is synonymous with the Y2K scare, when the world realized that computer systems were coded to recognize the year only by its last two digits. With extensive efforts from developers globally, programs were updated, and fortunately, the feared computing chaos was averted.

In addition to the Y2K drama, 2000 was a landmark year for technological innovation and entrepreneurship. It saw the launch of Windows Visio, Google AdWords, and the wildly popular game The Sims by Electronic Arts. Online platforms like Twitter and Blogspot also made their debut. Ashif Mawji founded Upside Software, a contract and commitment management software company that achieved international success in Edmonton. Upside, which would later win an ASTech Award, grew to over 150 employees and was sold in 2012 for millions of dollars. However, 2000 also marked the bursting of the tech bubble, halting investment growth until a rebound began in 2003.

Notably, the year 2000's ASTech Award winners included the Islet Transplantation Group at the University of Alberta. Led by Dr. Ray V. Rajotte, Dr. A.M. James Shapiro, Dr. Jonathan R.T. Lakey, Dr. Edmond Ryan, Dr. Gregory S. Korbutt, Dr. Norman M. Kneteman, and Dr. Garth L. Warnock, the team was recognized for their groundbreaking work in treating type 1 diabetes. Their innovation, the Edmonton Protocol, involves transplanting healthy pancreatic islets into diabetic patients, potentially eliminating the need for daily insulin injections. This outpatient procedure allows 40% of patients to resume normal activities the next day and has received global recognition and significant media attention, drawing inquiries from prominent figures such as Dr. Allen Spiegel of the NIH Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

For the first time in our series, we highlight that most of the 2000 ASTech Award-winning companies have been acquired, underscoring the role of acquisitions and investment in industry growth. Entrepreneurs often leverage these successes to build new companies, invest in others, or contribute to the community.

Matrikon was honored with the ASTech Award for Outstanding Commercial Achievement in Alberta Science and Technology for its leadership in process control and automation. Specializing in converting data into actionable information to enhance operational efficiency, Matrikon's products, ProcessNet and ProcessDoc, improved enterprise-wide data accessibility and trend analysis, preventing costly operational issues. Honeywell acquired Matrikon in 2010 for $144 million. Founder Nizar Somji continues to contribute to Alberta’s economy through ventures like Jaffer Inc., Consentia Inc., and investments in Western Canadian businesses. He is also the Chancellor of the University of Alberta.

Mentor Engineering received an award for Industrial Research, recognized for advancing wireless data and GPS solutions for fleet and mobile worker management. Founded in 1990, Mentor expanded globally, with systems in North America, Australia, and Europe. In 2013, Mentor was acquired by Trapeze Group, a subsidiary of Volaris Group.

SRW Technologies, another ASTech awardee for Industrial Research, developed abrasion-resistant materials crucial for the oil sands and mining sectors. Their unique plasma-transferred arc welding system significantly extended tool longevity. In 2005, ESCO acquired SRW Technologies, and later, Weir Group acquired ESCO for $1.285 billion.

These achievements highlight the innovative spirit and entrepreneurial success that defined 2000 in Alberta's technology sector. Overall in 2000, there were 10 ASTech Award Winners, which you can dig into deeper on the ASTech Website.

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