Pipelines and Turbines Podcast “Materials for Clean Fuels Challenge”

Phil was recently a guest on the podcast Pipelines and Turbines hosted by Jason Switzer, Leor Rotchild and Dan Zilnik. This podcast covers energy issues in Canada.

Phil talks about a range of topics including why it’s so difficult to scale clean energy technologies, pathways to decarbonize hard to abate sectors in industry, and his work at the National Research Council.

You can listen to the podcast episode below.

Corporate Knights Op-ed “If you want a diverse workforce, you need diverse leadership”

Phil recently published an opinion editorial article on Corporate Knights, a publication focused on promoting clean capitalism. As one of the world’s largest circulation (147K+) magazines focused on the intersection of business and sustainability, Corporate Knights is the most prominent brand in the clean capitalism media space.

You can read the op-ed online here or below:

If you want a diverse workforce, you need diverse leadership

I never had a role model in senior management who looked like me – this needs to change

When I was young, all I wanted to be when I grew up was white. As a new Canadian living in Windsor, Ontario, I didn’t want to be seen as the “Filipino” kid. I wanted to have peanut butter and jelly sandwiches instead of adobo chicken on rice for lunch. I wanted to belong, like everyone else.

As I charged through youth and into adolescence, I realized that it wasn’t necessarily white that I wanted to be – I just wanted to be successful. But I never had a professional role model who looked like me. Sure, Filipino people are considered hard workers (something my parents never let me forget), but the positions I would see them occupy were low-skilled and service work – janitors, customer service, labourers. Always the nurse, but never the doctor. To be clear, these are honourable professions: my partner is a nurse, and in my humble opinion, she is the best that humanity has to offer. These are, after all, the workers on the front lines of the pandemic.

I learned early on that education would be the tool I needed to forge a better life. I leveraged my thirst for knowledge into a PhD at the University of Toronto, where I had the luck to be mentored by professor Ted Sargent – one of the most ambitious, effective and successful people I’ve ever known. Suddenly, I was publishing in the world’s best scientific journals, travelling the world, summer interning at IBM in New York or UC Berkeley in California, and competing in the finals of the Carbon XPRIZE. Today, I run a seven-year, $57 million collaborative research program at the National Research Council to develop transformative technologies to decarbonize Canada’s economy.

At 28, I’m the youngest-ever director of the NRC. I sit on the board of directors for CMC Research Institutes, a non-profit focused on industrial decarbonization. I am a mentor for Creative Destructive Lab, an accelerator that brings science-based start-ups to life. I can proudly say I clawed my way to the decision-making table. I owe a lot of this success to the mentors in my life – all of whom were white. As they say, it’s all about who you know. Unfortunately, many visible minorities don’t know many leaders.

It’s not hard to see why, as a child, I would conflate being white with being successful. Leaders in Canada are overwhelmingly white. Only 10% of top executives at Canada’s Big Six banks and two large life insurers are visible minorities. Earlier this year, disclosures under the Canada Business Corporations Act showed that of 255 directors in S&P/TSX 60 companies, only 14 identified as a visible minority. The gap between whites and visible minorities is only set to widen, as 30% of the national population could identify as a visible minority by 2031. Canada’s workforce is becoming more diverse, but its bosses are not.

A diverse leadership team is not only more representative of the workforce and general population; it’s also good business. A recent report by McKinsey and Company shows that more ethnically diverse executive teams outperformed less diverse teams on profitability by 36%. Diverse perspectives lead to more creative solutions, greater understanding, and trust across gender, ethnic and cultural lines.

Diversity in leadership is necessary; to get there we need to mentor the visible minorities within our organizations.
First, we need to ensure that a robust candidate pool exists, with greater representation of visible minorities. Simple steps like blocking out the names on resumés can be effective in removing bias against non-Anglo-sounding names. Once we establish a pool of talented individuals, we need to match them up with leaders (yes, especially white ones) who can help them develop and grow. While there may not be many leaders who look like me today, there certainly won’t be any tomorrow if we place the burden of visible minority mentorship on the few visible minority leaders we do have.

Lastly, we need to be open and empathetic to each other. While it sounds cliché, communication really is the most important thing.

I no longer want to be white when I grow up. I want to realize myself fully in all the complexities of character that entails as an innovator and change-maker, beyond just a visible minority. I also want to be an example to other young Filipinos who dream of something bigger but aren’t quite sure what that is. However, there aren’t yet enough leaders who look like me – so white mentors, please apply.

“Self-Driving Labs for Materials Discovery” – Chemical Institute of Canada Virtual Talk

On Wednesday July 22nd, Phil gave a virtual talk to the Chemical Institute of Canada on “Self-Driving Labs for Materials Discovery”.

Far from being the nemesis portrayed in science fiction scenarios, artificial intelligence should be the most efficient and productive lab technician any researcher could ever want. As director of the National Research Council’s Materials and Clean Fuels Program, Phil De Luna has high expectations for the role that AI can play in accelerating the pace of innovation in this strategic area.

You can watch the recording of the talk here and below.

Keynote at Canadian Undergraduate Technology Conference (CUTC)

On Saturday July 18th, Phil gave a Keynote speech at the 20th annual Canadian Undergraduate Technology Conference (CUTC).

For two decades, CUTC has brought together students from across the country – creators, designers, engineers, entrepreneurs, budding scientists and young visionaries – to connect on technology development.

Phil virtually joined other technology development leaders and entrepreneurs from Google, Microsoft, LinkedIn, Shopify, and more.

Phil’s talk “Making the most of your twenties” was about describing Phil’s experiences and sharing some hard learned lessons about what it takes to make your twenties meaningful.

2020/2021 Mission Innovation Champion – Canada

Phil was just named the 2020/2021 Mission Champion for Canada!

Today he joined newly announced MI Champions from 21 other countries that represent 80% of the world’s clean energy R&D investment.

Launched in 2015, Mission Innovation is a global initiative to accelerate public and private clean energy innovation to address climate change.

The first cohort of Mission Innovation Champions was recognized in 2019 during the Mission Innovation Ministerial Meeting in Vancouver, Canada. At the Ministerial Meeting those 19 individuals were invited to meet with leaders, to celebrate their achievements as clean energy innovators. Today, the second year of the Mission Innovation Champions program recognizes and supports exceptional researchers and innovators who are developing novel ways of making energy cleaner, cheaper, and more reliable, and using it more efficiently. The Mission Innovation Champions programme calls worldwide attention to the most promising ideas from across the globe.

2020/2021 Action Canada Fellowship

Phil was just named as 1 of 15 Action Canada Fellows for the 2020-2021 cohort.

The Action Canada Fellowship is Canada’s top accelerator of policy leaders that aims to enhance emerging leaders’ understanding of the country and public policy choices for the future.

This Fellowship year will be a bit different for the 15 new Fellows due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Like most organizations, we will have to adjust and pivot to a dramatically changed global context and we are confident that we can offer a different but equally meaningful and rich Fellowship to the AC cohort of 2020/21 by adopting a suitable approach to converting our current program to a blended program format consisting of a mix of online plenary, small-group and individual sessions as well as hopefully a number of in-person study tours across Canada.

This year’s Fellows will also have an opportunity to work directly on policy solutions for rural and urban dimensions of the future of work in a post-pandemic world.

You see the whole list of fellows here.

New paper published in Nature!

Phil was just published as a co-author on “Accelerated discovery of CO2 electrocatalysts using active machine learning” in Nature.

This project was a collaboration with Carnegie Melon University and Phil’s PhD group at the University of Toronto where we used artificial intelligence to discover a new copper-aluminum catalyst for electrochemical CO2 conversion to ethylene.

This marks the last project that Phil was involved in during his PhD!

Mentor at Creative Destruction Lab – Matter Stream

Phil recently joined Creative Destruction Lab as a Mentor, helping early-stage cleantech entrepreneurs build successful startups. Phil is joining the Matter Stream, focused on bringing advanced materials to market.

The Matter Stream at CDL-Toronto will provide technical and business guidance, as well as access to capital, to entrepreneurs working on discovering, developing or recycling advanced materials across the value chain.

CDL startups work with mentors to sharpen objectives, prioritize time and resources, raise capital, and engage with experts working on the frontiers of research.

The startups attend up to five in-person objective-setting sessions between October and June. CDL is a non-profit organization. There are no fees for participation and CDL does not take any equity. Learn more about the CDL program.

Virtual OECD Meeting – Biotechnology, Nanotechnology, and Converging Technologies

Phil recently participated in a virtual OECD Meeting on April 20th, 2020 – the 11th Session of the Working Party on Biotechnology, Nanotechnology, and Converging Technologies.

Phil served as a commentator on a project on Collaborative Platforms – providing responses and reactions to work done on assessing collaborative platforms for advanced nanomaterials. The outcome of the working party will be a policy report on the dynamic development of collaborative platforms in global science and technology.