Techopia Live: Ottawa startup seeks $20M prize with carbon recycling solution

You can’t accuse Ottawa entrepreneurs of setting the bar too low. Techopia Live interviewed Tandem Technical co-founders Heather Ward and Jerry Flynn this week, as the pair pitched their solution for one of the world’s most pressing problems: carbon emissions.

Tandem’s conversion technology recycles CO2 emissions into more palatable byproducts such as calcium carbonate, a key ingredient in paint and toothpaste. It’s a win-win: less carbon in the air, more money in Tandem’s pockets.

“We’re taking what is essentially a liability in terms of global warming and things of that nature and turning it into an asset, since the market that we’re targeting is upwards of $25 billion,” Flynn told Techopia Live.

The firm has taken this solution to the NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE global competition, which seeks new ways to address harmful CO2 emissions. The local startup has made it to the top 20 mark of the four-year challenge, with adjudicators coming to evaluate the firm's process at the end of the month. If the team progresses to the finals, they’ll receive an automatic $750,000 with a shot at the $20 million grand prize.

Ward says that even if the firm doesn’t capture top spot, the XPRIZE experience offers valuable exposure and a network of contacts in the global scientific and business communities.

“There’s no silver bullet to addressing industrial emissions, so this is just a mission to get as many minds together on this problem and give it some international profile,” she says.

“It’s really a marketing vehicle... It’s something we can use to build relationships really quickly. That’s what we’re trying to do, is rapidly commercialize and scale this solution so it’s not just great R&D that sits in a lab.”

That’s all Tandem Technical’s solution was for a while. Flynn, the engineering mind behind Tandem, says meeting Ward helped him connect with people in the Ottawa area who could show him the business application of the work he was doing.

Tandem Technical co-founders Jerry Flynn and Heather Ward. (Photo by Carlo Lombard.)

“Any good engineer knows if you’re going to develop something, there needs to be a payback on it,” he says. Tandem’s potential future business models include offering free installation and making money in support, or offering a paid license to any firm that wants to install the solution.

Ward says the political momentum behind ideas such as carbon pricing have fuelled Tandem’s momentum. Companies in Canada worried about the effects of carbon pricing on their bottom lines are already reaching out to the startup, she says.

“The economics make sense to try to recycle this.”

To hear more about Tandem’s carbon recycling solution, watch the video above.