Cementing a Business Mix: Ottawa-based Giatec Scientific Partners with German Giant for R&D and Funding Deal

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An Ottawa cleantech company on a mission to make concrete greener hopes a cash injection from a European building materials powerhouse will cement its status as a world leader in its field.

Giatec Scientific announced on Tuesday that the German multinational HeidelbergCement, the world’s second largest cement company, had made a “minor strategic investment” in the local company.

Financial terms were not disclosed, but Giatec co-founder and CEO Pouria Ghods said the new partnership would give her company the financial clout to create an even more effective platform to help concrete makers. produce better quality building materials while doing less harm to the planet. .

Concrete manufacturing currently accounts for around 8% of global carbon dioxide emissions.

“It will allow us to have the best AI-based software to reduce the carbon footprint of this industry,” says Ghods.

Founded in 2010, Giatec specializes in the development of wireless sensors that use artificial intelligence to measure the quality and consistency of concrete during the construction process and beyond.

The company’s devices are now deployed on job sites in more than 80 countries. Giatec appeared on OBJ’s list of fastest growing companies in 2018, and it finished in the top 100 on Canadian company the magazine’s prestigious 2020 growth list, with five-year revenue growth of nearly 1,400%.

After pandemic-related headwinds held it back for a few years, Giatec is on track to exceed its revenue growth target of 25% year-over-year in 2022, Ghods said.

$5 million in federal funding

Now at 91 employees, the company received more than $5 million in federal funding last summer to help it grow.

But Ghods says to continue growing, Giatec needed another source of capital and found the perfect partner in Heidelberg, which operates in nearly 60 countries and runs more than 1,500 ready-mixed concrete production sites. job in the world.

While the additional funding will no doubt boost Giatec’s R&D efforts, Ghods says the new deal is as much about data as it is about dollars.

Heidelberg was founded in the 1870s, which means software engineers at the Ottawa-based company now have access to a treasure trove of information dating back nearly a century and a half – including the materials that go into its cement, how recipes have changed over time and how these changes have affected the quality of the resulting concrete.

“AI without data makes no sense. They have a gold mine there. Our job is to extract it.”

One of Giatec’s recent innovations is a web-based dashboard called SmartMix that uses artificial intelligence algorithms to help concrete producers calculate the ideal amount of cement and chemical additives in their mixes to reduce costs. materials and greenhouse gas emissions.

For example, Giatec is now using machine learning technology to figure out how to minimize the cement content of concrete by swapping out low-carbon materials such as slag, a byproduct of iron smelting, while maintaining its strength. and its durability.

Giatec researchers plan to use the Heidelberg data to make the company’s patented AI even smarter while continuing to refine the software.

“I believe we have taken a big step forward in revolutionizing the concrete industry in a sustainable way,” says Ghods. “AI without data is meaningless. They have a gold mine there. Our job is to extract it.

He also hopes that partnering with one of the best-known names in the industry will help convince more customers in the traditionally risk-averse construction industry to take the plunge and connect with Giatec’s platform.

“Adoption doesn’t happen very quickly,” says Ghods. “That’s part of the problem. Having a big player with a big international footprint, we believe this will help us accelerate the adoption of the solutions we already have and also new ones that we are going to bring to market.

The CEO is already considering how his company will celebrate hitting the 100-employee mark, a milestone it plans to reach by the end of its fiscal year in July. Even though Giatec is now launching its overseas hiring network in a bid to land skilled talent in today’s tight market, Ghods says the company is committed to growing its operations in the nation’s capital. .

“We’re proud to keep it Canadian and in Ottawa and hopefully we can make it a great success,” he said.

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