About Dr. Dan Wicklum
Dr. Wicklum has 25 years of experience managing research, driving innovation, and fostering collaboration in and among industry, government, academia and civil society. He was CEO of Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance for seven years, was Executive Director of the Canadian Forest Innovation Council, and has been a senior manager at Environment and Climate Change Canada and Natural Resources Canada. His initial career was football, as a linebacker for the Calgary Stampeders and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Dr. Wicklum has a PhD from the University of Montana, an MSc. From the University of Calgary and a BSc. From the University of Guelph.
Why did you take this position?
I’ve spent most of my career working in research or technology development with an aim to improve societies’ sustainability. But I’ve learned, especially in my last few positions, that developing good technology is entirely insufficient for change. We need to focus on finding solutions to challenges, not technology development. And where technology is part of a solution, without viable pathways to deployment figured out, ones that are co-developed and bought into by key stakeholders, technology just does not get commercialized and sectoral and societal behaviours seldom change. Transitions are as much about people and behaviour as they are about technology and economics. The Transition Accelerator understands these dynamics extremely well and I believe has a well thought out philosophy, focus and methodology that will allow it to be very successful. I would like to mention that Carleton University has been particularly supportive in developing the work of the Accelerator.
What is the Transition Accelerator?
The Accelerator is a new organization that collaborates with targeted groups across the country to solve major business or social challenges and where significant greenhouse gas reductions can be built into the solutions.
We focus on systems, not technologies – we have moved away from the approach where “technologies look for a problems to solve”, to focus on “solutions that find and deploy the right technology, business model, policy and/or social innovations to accelerate the transition to a low carbon economy”
Practically, how this is done is we work with change makers, disruptors and technology developers, to develop a shared vision of the future that is compelling enough for them, and addresses enough of their key challenges, that people want to change and do things differently to make sure they get there. In other words, the vision of the future is so positive, they don’t feel like change is being forced on them externally or from above. Then we undertake independent, rigorous, data-driven analyses of the technological, economic and social and environmental systems related to the sector or region, to inform and fine-tune the visioning process. The end goal is to launch consortia that track compelling pathways that are capable of moving the sector to a low carbon economy while achieving other objectives.
What makes the Transition Accelerator different from other organizations or approaches?
The Accelerator focusses on steering change to improve key societal systems and harnesses the disruptive and transformative forces that are already sweeping our economy.
We are different in that we have few constraints, are nimble, and most importantly, we are independent. Governments have to respond to election cycles, and established industry has to respond to shareholders. These constraints often force short-term thinking and result in a drastically reduced and often poor solution set to our most challenging issues. Society is often forced to pursue dead end pathways that favour incumbents rather than forward-looking solutions that provide great economic, social and environmental outcomes, and still solve our challenges.
The Accelerator also has a rigorous methodology to guide its efforts. Without a methodology and sound theoretical underpinnings, progress is usually extremely difficult when you tackle complex issues. But our approach is practical – it draws upon significant applied sustainability transitions research that has been proof-tested and refined over the last few years in real-world work with the long-haul freight sector in Western Canada.
Above all, the Accelerator is positive. We want to change narratives from the negative, “We don’t want to change”, to the positive, “We want to change, because the future is one we have helped define and it is one we want to live in”. This is a powerful paradigm that initial indications suggest will prove extremely effective.
What will success look like in three years?
Our approach will be to work with motivated sectors and people, to define compelling future visions that solve major business or social challenges and where major GHG reductions can be built into the solution. In three years we feel we can have identified several big challenges, we will have created visions for those challenges with the change makers, disruptors and technology developers motivated to change. We will have avoided flavor of the day policies and short-term techno-fixes and we will have developed independent, rigorous, data-driven pathways we can track to attain the visions. And most importantly, we will be well into tracking the pathways to better futures.
There is already significant work on an exciting pathway to embed hydrogen as an emission-less fuel in our economy while allowing Canada to maintain its prominence as a developer of its oil and gas resources, and helping to create a more competitive freight sector at the same time. This is exactly the type of thing the Accelerator will work on. We’ll help support and expand this hydrogen work as one of our first priorities. Check out the Alberta Zero-Emission Truck Electrification Collaboration (AZETEC) at www.cesarnet.ca.