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Alberta’s Hyperloop test track could go to France instead: TransPod CEO

The CEO of the company that wants to build a Hyperloop test track near Calgary says the clock is ticking on Alberta’s chance to host the company’s full scale test track.

Sebastien Gendron’s TransPod Inc. is one of the key players working on Hyperloop technology internationally.

The idea is to send people and cargo in pods at high speeds through long, airtight tubes that have had most of the air removed.

A functional Hyperloop track could get people between Edmonton and Calgary in under half an hour.

While it sounds futuristic, TransPod has already raised over $20 million in private investment and has partnered with several aerospace and transportation companies.

Gendron has expressed an interest in building a test track on the outskirts of Calgary, and hopefully tapping into the city’s engineering and tech experts for employees. What he’s looking for from the province is approval in regulatory matters, as well as land to build the 10 kilometer test track.

A small-scale Hyperloop test track is already under construction in France, and Gendron said another region of France has expressed an interest in hosting the full-scale, 10 kilometre test track which Alberta is also in the running for.

He stressed that he’s not looking for funding from the province. Instead he wants to bring private funding and jobs to the area.

LiveWire reached out to the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade for its take on TransPod.

In an email, a spokesperson said that the province is ready to work with TransPod on the proposed test track.

“We are looking for more information from TransPod regarding their proposal, and are willing to work with them to find a safe and appropriate location for the project,” read the statement.

Gendron expects to make the decision on the test track location by the end of the month.

“By the end of June, if we don’t have any confirmation… we’ll be able to tell if the province is behind us or not.”

TransPod is partnering with aerospace companies to develop the pods that would carry passengers and cargo through a Hyperloop track.

He did give Alberta points for being more proactive than Ontario or Quebec when it comes to courting startups, but had less positive things to say about the federal government, and the overall climate in Canada when it comes to innovation.

“I wouldn’t even compare Canada with Europe,” he said. “I can confirm that Canada is really risk-adverse in terms of developing innovation.”

Gendron noted the federal government’s latest round of funding from its Strategic Innovation Fund – a $1.26 billion tech acceleration fund – went to multinational mining firm Rio Tinto, which has annual revenues over $40 billion.

He said giving taxpayer dollars to established and successful companies such as Rio Tinto is not the best way to spur innovation.

“They are looking at companies which are making billions of dollars, and they’re not helping small and medium companies like us,” he said.

Gendron contrasted that with the reception Transpod has received in Italy and France. He said the Canadian-based company is already close to conducting half of its activities in Europe.

There, he said the government is matching private investment on certain projects dollar-for-dollar.

“It goes back to taking the risk to really innovate,” he said.