Mary Austin, formerly of Austin Engineering, has launched a new cleantech company dedicated to optimizing the electrical energy sector.
Austin Innovation Inc.’s new CEO is leading the charge from Trail, in close proximity to multiple 100-year-old+ assets in generation, transmission, and distribution.
“We’re located on the Kootenay-Columbia River system, home to 18 dams and generating stations on the Canadian side alone,” she explains. “Our business focuses on harnessing renewable materials and energy sources to optimize natural resource use.”
Austin has stepped down from her role as Director of Business Development at sister company Austin Engineering, also based in Trail.
She looks forward to focusing on her new venture, which will enhance future client’s networks through data systems, cleantech software, and hardware products.
“Austin Innovation helps clients reduce energy loss and optimize designs; we’re working to create cleaner, more efficient networks that generate and optimize existing power areas,” she explains.
“The system for efficiently managing electrical energy is highly reliable; however, could be enhanced with 21st century tech solutions. We will work with clients to meet modern standards by using our technology to provide new metrics on cost, environmental impact, and end user delivery.”
Austin’s leadership in the cleantech field and investment in engineering is paired with an entrepreneurial spirit.
The company officially launched in late March, concurrent with new developments in the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada.
Though outside the company’s scope, Austin shifted the business to temporarily focus on manufacturing medical face shields and other personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare staff to meet the demand generated by the crisis.
“We’ve effectively collaborated with Selkirk College and other local businesses to scale production of health and emergency worker PPE from our lab,” explains Austin.
Austin Innovation assembled a team and began producing up to 250 PPE face shields per day.
They used end-user feedback and adaptive manufacturing techniques to create a high-quality design tailored to meet form, fit, function, comfort, and ease of sterilization targets. In addition to healthcare workers, they’ve also equipped other essential service workers, such as firefighters and RCMP.
“Our team has shared design and production techniques with the Provincial Health Services Authority, partners at the University of British Columbia, who are coordinating epidemiology with national and international teams, and colleagues abroad,” explains Austin.
“I’m proud of the responsive action we took and the contribution we’ve made.
“We’re extraordinarily grateful for the foresight our community leaders showed in creating the MIDAS lab – now the Selkirk Technology Access Centre – which built invaluable relationships and high-skill local capacity.”
Always passionate about working in the West Kootenay Boundary, she’s devoting her attention to further driving the economy by encouraging new opportunities with lasting effects on business in the region and internationally.
“I’ve enjoyed my time working with my husband Roger and our exceptional team at Austin Engineering with business development. Our clients are leaders in their industry and we’re grateful for the high level opportunities we’ve received. I’m very excited for this next chapter; it’s completely separate from Austin Engineering.”
Austin is a board member for Columbia Basin Trust’s Impact Investment Fund and is chair of Selkirk College’s Engineering Program Advisory Committee, as well as a new board member for the Lower Columbia Initiatives Corporation.
She also founded and facilitates the Lower Columbia Women’s Business Club, which fosters opportunity for women in business, and is a champion for Advancing Women in Engineering and Technology.
Her dedication to raising the bar was recognized with Kootenay Business Magazine’s Influential Woman in Business Award in 2016 – the same year the Trail and District Chamber of Commerce honoured her with the Excellence Under 40 Award.