Calgary accelerator launched to help emerging tech companies trying to win Elon Musk's $100M XPrize

A carbon technology company in Calgary has partnered with the University of Calgary to help teams attempting to win the prestigious XPrize.

Avatar Innovations, U of C and XPrize team up for Avatar Carbon Removal Accelerator

Tesla Inc. boss and billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk is offering up an unprecedented $100 million US for XPrize Carbon Removal. (Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

A carbon technology company in Calgary has partnered with the University of Calgary to help teams aiming to win the prestigious XPrize.

Tesla Inc. boss and billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk is offering up an unprecedented $100 million US for XPrize Carbon Removal — a four-year global competition to find a way to pull carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere or oceans and lock it away permanently.

Eighteen months into the XPrize competition, the top 15 teams will receive $1 million while 25 student scholarships worth $200,000 each will be distributed to the competing student teams.

Following that, the grand prize winner will get $50 million, while the second place holder will get $20 million and $10 million will go to the third place holder.

Kevin Krausert is the CEO of Calgary-based carbon technology company Avatar Innovations. (John Ulan)

On Wednesday, XPrize, Avatar Innovations and the U of C announced plans to launch the Avatar Carbon Removal Accelerator in Calgary.

They say the application-based program will give teams that are interested in winning the prize access to workspace in the Energy Transition Centre in downtown Calgary. It's set to open Oct. 1.

Teams will also have opportunities to collaborate with energy industry stakeholders, in addition to researchers in the U of C's labs and testing facilities. 

"Any global company that believes they have a solution for carbon removal would be eligible to apply to the program, [and] generally speaking, this will be emerging technologies," said Kevin Krausert, the CEO of Avatar Innovations, on the Wednesday edition of the Calgary Eyeopener.

"They'll be having the chance to be working in partnership with some of the largest energy companies in the world … [and] they'll also have access to University of Calgary's world-leading labs."

Serious technology

The program plans to work with 10 to 12 teams that will be evaluated by what Krausert described as a "robust" selection committee.

The accelerator is also being supported by energy companies that include Suncor, Enbridge, Shell Canada, Imperial and Cenovus Energy.

It hopes to bring highly motivated players to build and bring investment to Calgary's carbon technology sector, Krausert said.

And while companies certainly can work toward the XPrize on their own, Krausert said the accelerator will help to provide the resources often needed by emerging tech companies to last the duration of the XPrize and reach industrial scale.

"To bring to the table serious technology, a technology roadmap — as well as, you know, potential partners that have the horsepower and the scale of a Shell or a Suncor — really bolsters their chances for success," Krausert said.

According to Krausert, initiatives like the accelerator also help to carve out a place for Calgary on the carbon technology map, which, he said, is projected to become a multi-trillion dollar industry by 2050.

"We have a great ecosystem at the University of Calgary, and with the energy industry here, to really bolster the admissions for this XPrize, and base them right here," Krausert said.

"[And] to really build a world leading sector … in partnership with experts."

Details on admission criteria for the Avatar Carbon Removal Accelerator, and applications for the program, can be found online.

With files from The Associated Press and the Calgary Eyeopener.


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