04/07/2014 02:46 EDT | Updated 06/07/2014 05:59 EDT

Why Alberta Is A Great Place To Call Home

It's official: Alberta is the place to be.

This past year, our province welcomed a record number of migrants. In fact, total net migration surpassed 105,000 people, bumping our population to more than four million and our growth rate to quadruple the national average.

More and more people are choosing to live in Alberta because they recognize the province's great potential. Either they were born and raised here and know the advantages first-hand or they were drawn to this unique area by the thriving economy, vast and varied landscape, world-class education facilities and strong cultural diversity.

I'm the latter.

In November 2012, I relocated to Edmonton with my family after spending nearly a decade in Cincinnati as the founding Dean of the University's College of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

I was excited by the opportunity to lead the province's first and only nanotechnology accelerator laboratory and I could see past chilly winters and mosquito-y summers to a bright future, filled with prosperity.

Alberta has led all provinces in average annual economic growth over the last 20 years. Our unmatched strengths in agriculture, forestry and petrochemicals have earned us an international reputation but it is the energy sector that is our driving economic force. We are the energy hub in a nation that consistently ranks among the top 10 energy producers in the world. That's huge.

A large part of our success can be found below the ground, in three major deposits in northeast Alberta. This area, which covers more than 140,000 square kilometres, is roughly the size of England and is the third largest petroleum reserve in the world.

Like it or not, our signature oil sands produce 1.9 million barrels of oil per day and Alberta is reaping the rewards of this abundant resource thanks to forward thinking and long-term technology investments decades ago.

At Ingenuity Lab, we are looking ahead too.

We recognize the potential for innovative nanotechnology breakthroughs in the oil and gas industry and are committed to working with partners to position our province for even more success.

We know that nanoscience will help us to better understand and reach hard to access oil and gas reservoirs. Our tiny nanosensors will provide even more accurate information about untapped potential deep in the earth and with improved data, resource extraction processes can be refined, making them less invasive.

Novel nanomaterials and engineered coatings will also help equipment perform in the most extreme conditions. The industry will benefit from corrosion, wear and shock-resistant equipment as well as enhanced thermal conductivity. And operators can look forward to longer lasting and more robust tools that will withstand harsh elements, high temperatures and pressures.

But most importantly, nanotechnology will make oil and gas operations more environmentally friendly.

In the very near future, nano filters and particles will be used to remove harmful substances from the earth and water with exact precision and things like cost effective CO2 sequestration will suddenly be within reach.

At Ingenuity Lab, we truly are on the cusp of breakthroughs that will revolutionize our province's signature industries. We have attracted some of the best and brightest minds from around the world who will be instrumental in protecting and restoring our land. Together, we are learning every day.

I've just returned from a trip to the fourth International Nanotechnology Conference & Exhibition in Israel where I was joined by representatives for Alberta Innovates Technology Futures (AITF) and its Materials and Reliability in Oil Sands (MARIOS) experts. Here we met with nanotechnology leaders from around the world, listened to leading-edge discoveries and shared news about our province's significant progress. It was inspiring and a good reminder about the wealth of resources we have at our fingertips.

As Albertans we have been fortunate. So now it's time to secure the best future for those who will enjoy this province long after us. We must leave a legacy we can all be proud of.

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