This article is part of the Bright Leaders of Calgary series, which features prominent corporate leaders and their insights on the local business community and vision for the future.
Calgary is a future-focused city of innovation and opportunity, home to visionaries with solutions to global challenges. Innovation is implemented, not just ideated in this city.
Local companies like Fluor bring new concepts to life and integrate them into everyday processes. They drive progress in sustainable energy production and the path to net zero.
With the global energy transition presenting a $61 billion opportunity for Alberta by 2050, local firms are embracing innovation to fuel long-term prosperity for Calgarians, a priority in the economic strategy, Calgary in the New Economy.
It’s bright minds like Mark Brown who lead the charge, drive continuous improvement and inspire the next generation of problem-solvers. As Vice President and General Manager of Fluor Canada, Mark embraces a global mindset alongside his expertise in engineering, procurement and construction.
We caught up with Mark for his insights on opportunities in the energy transition, Calgary’s skilled talent pool and the innovation ecosystem:
How do you describe Calgary’s business environment?
Our business community embraces the sentiment that ‘we’re all in this together’. In the last few years, there's been a shift in both individuals and businesses prioritizing ESG related values.
I've noticed new levels of cooperation. This collaborative approach to solving challenges across the city’s entire ecosystem extends beyond just cleantech, oil and gas and energy – innovation is a priority for the whole Calgary community.
The Alberta Energy Transition Study is an example of the private, public and non-profit sectors working together to build a path for our future. In my 25 years of experience, I have never seen this level of emphasis on the importance of coming together to share insights, learn and work together for the common good.
The Transition Accelerator recently released a feasibility study for a Calgary region hydrogen hub. What role do you anticipate Calgary to have in advancing and expanding the hydrogen economy?
There is incredible potential in Calgary’s path toward carbon neutrality through the hydrogen economy.
Hydrogen production has always been part of the Canadian oil and gas market. However, now we need to transition to a more available energy source for the end user. It’s a matter of making sure that we can safely produce and transport hydrogen and make it more common for the end user. We need to also continue to strategically invest in hydrogen networks and storage infrastructure.
Calgary has the competitive advantage of its natural resource base, its innovative spirit and pragmatic business environment to help attract investment from organizations with the capacity to activate the hydrogen economy for end users.
If we look at the whole first-mover concept in our industry – like our operators and owners of oil and gas – someone will need to be the first to make a move. Alberta has innovated so much as an industry in the last 100 years, and the things we’ve accomplished in terms of energy production are world renowned. There is no reason why we can’t now transform this momentum to hydrogen.
How is Calgary’s innovation ecosystem developing solutions to global energy challenges?
Organizations like the Energy Futures Lab and Avatar Innovations are accelerating the energy transition and emboldening local companies to not only research and innovate but implement new solutions.
Because of the collaboration and partnership they offer, companies like Fluor can be an enabler. We connect the dots between what’s happening in the energy industry and what’s happening in the innovation ecosystem. With our skilled people and teams we can help translate innovative ideas and concepts to real world applications.
This is what sets Calgary apart, and part of why I think Calgary was named a Top Cleantech Ecosystem by Startup Genome. Here we see concepts translated to real solutions, because Calgary has the building blocks in an industry that can capitalize on the bright ideas in energy transition.
Together, we translate what is scientifically possible into what’s industrially possible.
What are your insights and observations of Calgary’s talent pool?
Calgary’s talent pool is our community’s greatest resource. Increasingly, Calgary’s talent pool is growing with expertise in the arts, film and TV industry to tech, innovation and life sciences. This is creating a diversity of thought and skill set, which results in a broad resource base for us to draw upon.
Our talent pool also has a healthy pragmatism and values both cultural and industrial competencies; Calgary’s talent is very situationally aware. Beyond foundational skills, technical talent also embraces a social morality and social conscientiousness.
Professionals and workers in Calgary want to make a difference; they value integrity and continue to ensure our community is a welcoming, inclusive place.
What gives you optimism for Calgary’s future?
I believe we’re at a tipping point with regards to perceptions and acceptance of what energy and the energy transition means. Calgary is positioned to move these perceptions forward without unnecessary procrastination because we have people who want to make a difference; they are driven to trying new things.
Secondly, Calgarians candidly embrace tough conversations. We are talking openly in ways that we’ve never talked before, whether that’s about how we can make progress towards equity, diversity and inclusion, how we’re keeping each other safe with mental wellness and psychological safety or how we’re activating energy solutions for the greater good.
Finally, I am proud to be a part of a business that can stand up and set an example for others. If it’s not going to be us, then who will set that example?
Calgary’s people and sense of community – this is where my optimism comes from.
The Team Calgary corporate partnership program engages our community’s visionary thought leaders to influence Calgary’s economic growth and create long-term prosperity and opportunities for all Calgarians.
Together, we advance the economic strategy, Calgary in the New Economy, as the path to make Calgary the place where bright minds and big ideas come together with an unmatched spirit to help solve global challenges.