Canada is losing out to Europe in northern technology research, says Yukon MP Larry Bagnell.
Last week, Bagnell flew to Kiruna — a city in northern Sweden about the size of Whitehorse — to attend the Seventh Conference of Parliamentarians of the Arctic Region.
The conference, held every two years since its 1993 debut in Reykjavik, Iceland, provides a forum for Arctic countries to discuss issues and common concerns.
Upon his return from the meeting, which ran from August 2nd to 4th, Bagnell reported northern Canada — and the Yukon in particular — has a lot of catching up to do if it wants to compete internationally in the cold-weather technology industry.
“In the town we were in, they were testing cars in cold weather from most of the major car manufacturers, including American car makers,” Bagnell said Monday.
“So why aren’t we doing that here?
“We’ve got cold weather.”
There is a big market in the circumpolar world for technologies and products adapted or designed for the cold.
European countries are tapping into the industry by investing in cold-climate technology research centres, said Bagnell.
Canada should follow suit, he said.
“I’m not saying that there isn’t research going on in the Canadian Arctic, but we need to take a lot more advantage.”
The Arctic Institute of North America, a research institute of the University of Calgary — which runs the Kluane Lake Research Station — should be expanded, said Bagnell.
It is also necessary to get the Yukon Cold Climate Innovation Centre up and running. The proposed Yukon College facility would work on the development, commercialization and export of sustainable cold-climate technologies around the world.
“There’s this committee that’s been working on the Whitehorse cold climate centre, involving academic people and companies for a number years, and they’ve got a very professional plan together,” Bagnell said.
“To invest in something like that, I think, would be excellent.”
Bagnell said that investigating fluid-based heating systems and seeking ways to cope with icing on windmills are good examples of work the new centre could perform.
A report commissioned in November 2005 identified research and development potential for commercial buildings and housing in the North, as well as water and sewer infrastructure, and future pipelines.
“When they did the original research on the Alaska pipeline, some of the cold weather technology was done in France, of all places,” said Bagnell.
“I mean that’s ridiculous. We’ve got enough cold weather here. If we had the proper research centre set up, we could bring the appropriate scientists here and companies could bring their scientists here and do that type of research that they needed done on products for the North.”