Award-winning clean tech company taps SFU for success
This year’s Innovate BC-New Ventures top prize winner, Richmond-based Volta Air Technology Inc., is pinning its recent success largely on the acumen of its employees—many of them, Simon Fraser University alumni—according to its founder.
Kris Malek—an SFU MBA graduate—says netting the 2018 top award, valued at $110,000, is “a true testament to our team, and to our commitment to building and delivering world-class solutions to real-world challenges.”
Volta Air's success can be attributed in large part to SFU grads, Malek says. “In nearly all aspects of our operations, including business development, R&D, and product commercialization, we have benefited from staff who learned valuable skills and gained first-hand experience at SFU."
The team includes Peter Johnston, the company’s CTO, who graduated from SFU’s Mechatronic Systems Engineering (MSE) program in 2013 and joined the formerly Surrey-based company, which specializes in developing efficient and eco-friendly advanced heating and cooling solutions. Johnston started as a product and component developer, looking for ways to design products that both reduced costs and are environmently friendly.
“Peter’s contributions to Volta Air have been essential to our success, including spearheading our leading-edge R&D activities, which has helped us outpace our competition,” says Malek.
Meanwhile SFU alumnus Massoud Labanni is the company’s manufacturing manager. Beyond management, five current employees in the R&D team are SFU grads.
“We've used SFU as a local pipeline for talented engineers and technicians because they have strong technical skills and are able to make immediate contributions to our dynamic team,” Malek explains.
“We will continue to work with the MSE program at SFU and other top engineering programs across Canada to strengthen our talent pool as we grow in the next couple of years."
Volta Air has also benefited greatly from several collaborative projects with Professor Michael Eikerling and his research group in the Department of Chemistry.
SFU engineering and MSE grads are highly sought in the burgeoning clean tech industry. To help meet that need, the Faculty of Applied Science is launching its Sustainable Energy Engineering program next fall. Applications are now being accepted. The program will be housed in SFU’s new building in Surrey, which is slated to open next year.