OSA seminar by Sylvia Grewatsch, Brock University

Project Energy Breakthrough: How Breaking, Bridging and Building Enable Scalable Impact For Grand Challenges

Info about event


Monday 10 May 2021,  at 14:00 - 15:00


via Zoom


Department of Management

Zoom link:

On May 10 at 14:00 via Zoom, Sylvia Grewatsch, Goodman School of Business, Brock University, Canada, will give a seminar entitled

Project Energy Breakthrough: How Breaking, Bridging and Building Enable Scalable Impact For Grand Challenges

Diverse organizations have become interested in finding solutions to grand challenges. Ultimately, tackling grand challenges requires an ability to not only arrive at potential solutions, but also to deploy these at a scale capable of making a difference. The key difficulty confronting such efforts is the problem of ‘scaling up’ the impact of any putative solutions. To date, however, prior literature has primarily highlighted the impediments organizations face when seeking to have scalable impact. The role of governments has been sidelined, despite the broad agreement that grand challenges require the collective involvement of disparate actors. In this study, we propose that governments might play a more active role in tackling grand challenges than is currently understood. Based on a historical organizational study about the 1970s energy crisis in Canada that led to the establishment of Project Energy Breakthrough and the foundation of the crown-corporation Alberta Oil Sands Technology and Research Authority (AOSTRA), we show how government actors can enable market-based, scalable solutions to complex societal issues. Our examination of more than 20,000 pages of historical documents and interviews about AOSTRA’s operating history from 1974 to 1994 and its continuing legacy through 2018 reveals how AOSTRA invested $1 billion in research and development that ultimately precipitated essential breakthroughs in steam assisted gravity drainage technology. We highlight three key principles: breaking, bridging, and building, that are associated with AOSTRA’s role. Our findings contribute to research on grand challenges at the intersection of scaling technological solutions and government-industry-research collaborations.

Co-authors: Joel Gehman, University of Alberta, and Pratima (Tima) Bansal, Western University

Read more about Sylvia Grewatsch