Innovation Made by Alberta Women – Karen Young, Alberta Innovates Tech Futures


FireThe word “technology” comes from the Greek “Techne,” meaning, “art, skill, cunning of hand”. The suffix “logia” means “the science of”.  Essentially, technology is about the techniques that we find in order to solve problems.

Early examples of technology include learning to control fire, the invention and use of the wheel, and telephones. These inventions show how seemingly simple innovations can have a huge impact on human kind.

At Alberta Innovates-Technology Futures (Tech Futures), we help innovators, entrepreneurs and businesses find solutions to challenges facing Alberta in the sectors of agriculture, forestry, energy, environment and health. Our applied research services and facilities help to develop new products, and assist in finding new commercial applications for existing technologies. We also work within the Alberta’s innovation ecosystem to provide business advice to entrepreneurs on strategy, intellectual property management, and financing support they need to bring their new technologies to market.

My everyday work focuses on connecting the right people together to help startups and SMEs go successfully through all the steps required to launch their new technologies. There is plenty of talent in Alberta, and our mission is to help innovators translate their knowledge into commercial success. We are here to help them bring new products to market, to create businesses success, and ultimately, economic and social benefits for Albertans. And among these brilliant minds, we see more and more women.

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One of these women entrepreneurs we had the pleasure to support is Dr. Seema Gupta. With her company NanoSpeed Diagnostics, she has developed point-of-care products that have the potential to revolutionize patient care.

NanoSpeed has created a device that measures, in less than 15 minutes, the three thyroid hormone levels in a patient’s blood. This lab-on-a-chip can be used in a doctor’s office, and thus eliminates the need for lab testing. As a result, patients can get their blood tested and their medication adjusted in a single visit. Physicians take a blood drop from the finger, put it on the chip and insert it in the reader. Patients save time, doctors can help more patients, and thyroid-testing costs will be reduced significantly.

NanoSpeed is now focused on getting its thyroid-testing device approved by regulatory agencies, and Dr. Gupta hopes the product will be launched in the North American, European and Indian markets by the end of 2014.

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Another smart woman that I enjoy working with is my colleague Dr. Liyan Zhao. She is heavily involved with our new cellulose nanocrystals (CNC) pilot plant, which was officially commissioned in September 2013. The ambitious project is the fourth of its kind in North America. The pilot plant produces the CNC that is being distributed to researchers, who will explore potential commercial applications.

It is work by scientists like Dr. Gupta and Dr. Zhao that makes me proud to be in Alberta and see these innovations happening here. We have strong science, and our Alberta innovation system is there to help these creative minds commercialize new products made in Alberta.

By doing so, we actively contribute to diversifying our economy and solving real-world challenges facing industry and government today. With creativity and collaboration among innovation partners, we can definitely create strong business in the province and open doors to new opportunities. Dream big!


Author Bio

KarenYoungKaren Young, Executive Director, Partnerships and Collaborations, Alberta Innovates Tech Futures

Karen was excited to become part of the Tech Futures’ team in June 2012. As Executive Director, Karen’s portfolio includes developing and implementing programs to incite international collaboration and joint ventures, nanotechnology investment programs, providing leadership to regional partners in the innovation system, and managing services and funding programs to support entrepreneurs, startups, and companies.

With a wide variety of work experience and an MBA from the University of Alberta, Karen likes to bring an innovative and lean management approach to the public sector. Areas of expertise include project management, strategic planning, governance, and communication. Although she is now focusing on technology and commercialization, Karen has worked in the areas of tourism, sport and recreation, parks, Aboriginal relations, and land-use planning.

With a ‘work hard – play hard’ attitude, she enjoys her time off traveling, golfing, and being active with her family.