When the USSR collapsed in 1991, previously held secrets from behind the iron curtain Manning Innovation Awards logowere released. Ivan Milan, President of Canadian company EcoSpace Engineering Ltd., was particularly interested in the Soviet Space Program’s plans to travel to the planet Mars in the 1960s.

To deal with the human waste produced on the journey, Soviet scientists planned to rely on fly larvae to break it down. Milan has since taken this concept and spun it into a viable technology from his lab at the University of Guelph. EcoSpace is being recognized at MaRS on May 25 as a 2011 nominee for the prestigious Manning Innovation Awards.

Milan’s unique project fits with the Ernest C. Manning Awards Foundation’s philosophy that “powerful innovation can as easily emerge from a home basement as a research lab.” Milan’s team is currently building a large plant in Guelph to test technology that turns animal waste into fertilizer via fly larvae in as little as four days.

Named after the former Alberta Premier, the Ernest C. Manning Awards Foundation was created in 1980 by former CEO of Alberta Energy Company, David E. Mitchell. The awards are open to “Canadian resident citizens who have demonstrated recent innovative talent in developing and successfully marketing a new concept, process or procedure.”

Since its inception, the Foundation has sifted through over 2,500 nominees and doled out $4 million in prizes to 216 winners, all in order encourage and recognize Canadian innovators like Milan.

On May 25, the GTA Regional Chapter of the Foundation will host a recognition event for the four Toronto-area nominees. Joining Milan’s EcoSpace Engineering Ltd. are not-for-profit Roots of Empathy, the Xerox Research Centre of Canada, and Canadian Speaker Works Pro.

The nominees are up for the Principal Award of $100,000, an Award of Distinction for $25,000 and two $10,000 awards. Prizes will be presented in October of 2011 at the National Awards Gala in Edmonton.

Think you’ve got the next game-changing innovation? Nominations for the 2012 Manning Innovation Award are open until December 1, 2011 – click here for eligibility and judging criteria.


Joseph Wilson

Joseph was an education advisor at MaRS Discovery District. He writes on topics of science, culture and city issues for NOW Magazine, the Globe and Mail, Spacing and Yonge Street. He is the Executive Director of the Treehouse Group, dedicated to fostering innovation by hosting cross-disciplinary events. See more…