​COSIA the flag-bearer of Canada’s cleantech success story: new chief

Wes Jickling will officially take on the head role at COSIA on August 6. Image: COSIA

The incoming chief executive of Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance says the group is “doubling down” on what makes it successful and looking to better share its story.

Wes Jickling is currently CEO of Innovation Saskatchewan and the province’s Deputy Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs; posts that he will leave to officially take on the head role at COSIA on August 6.

Jickling says that Canadians, and particularly oilsands producers, are leaders in problem solving using technology.

His appointment to COSIA coincides with a new strategic plan for the organization that includes getting that message out to a broader audience.

“We have a great track record of clean-tech; we have a great track record of environmental stewardship and responsible resource development, and my view is that COSIA is kind of the flag-bearer of that right now for Canada,” he told JWN.

Since being formed in 2012, COSIA says its portfolio of projects has delivered more than 1,000 technologies valued at over $1.4 billion, “which has resulted in meaningful progress to reduce impacts to water, air and land.”

Jickling said COSIA and Innovation Saskatchewan share a focus and objective on collaborative innovation, or getting multiple companies, academics and different partners involved in solving common problems or challenges. In Saskatchewan that takes the form of “pure tech” like apps and retail technology in addition to oil, gas and agriculture, he said.

“My role at Innovation Saskatchewan has really been a job of bringing people together, listening to what they need, coming up with pretty cost effective and interesting programs that give people what they need to sort of build tech companies, solve problems with technology,” he said.

“I think what really is attractive for me about COSIA is just how good they are at it. It’s really quite remarkable what these companies have been able to do together and the results that they can show.”

COSIA also offers similarities to the diplomacy that is central to his deputy minister role.

“You’ve got 13 premiers and 13 [provinces and territories] trying to agree and find common ground on any number of issues [like] immigration, carbon tax, all of these things, so it’s really an exercise in finding compromise and diplomacy and maintaining relationships,” Jickling said.

“This is the part I love about COSIA, is that you do have eight shareholders but they’re still making tremendous gains. You just don’t see that in other industries, at least that I’m aware of, to have eight separate producers all working together and collaborating on technology in this way.”

Jickling, who is from Estevan, Saskatchewan, holds a Master of International Relations degree from Aalborg University in Denmark and a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations from the University of Calgary.

He was previously director of marketing and corporate services at Saskatoon-based potash exporter Canpotex. He also spent five years working the United Nations in Brazil, Swaziland, Ukraine and Sudan in roles he said were focused on project management, resource mobilization, attracting investment, and tracking progress against milestones.

Jickling’s background makes him “exceptionally well qualified” to lead COSIA, said Cheryl Trudell, Imperial Oil Limited’s vice-president of research and chair of the COSIA shareholder steering committee.

He takes over from John Brogly, who has been COSIA’s acting chief executive since April, following the departure of founding chief executive Dan Wicklum in February.

“It’s a pretty exciting organization and I’m super pumped to get started,” Jickling said.