Final Thoughts: Advancing bio-based solutions for a low-carbon economy
July 28, 2017
By Paul Lansbergen
There is considerable talk in government circles of how Canada can improve its innovation performance. Earlier this spring, the federal government tabled its ‘Innovation’ budget. A key plank of this budget is moving forward with its committed investment in clusters and networks, which in the words of the government, is “intended to catalyze private sector dynamism, bring a critical mass of stakeholders together and connect their ideas to the marketplace.”
At the same time, Canada needs to address climate change and that means shifting to a low carbon economy. Canada’s forest products industry is already a leader in both areas and is working hard to advance bio-based solutions for a low carbon economy.
On climate change, Canada’s forest products industry has already reduced its GHG emissions by 66 per cent since 1990. Last year, FPAC raised the bar when it announced its ambitious 30 by 30 Climate Change Challenge where it pledged to cut 30 megatonnes of greenhouse gases a year by 2030, about 13 per cent of the federal government’s overall climate change target.
On innovation, the forest products industry is in the midst of a fundamental transformation to diversify its products and markets to create more value from its fibre streams; and bring to market more carbon-friendly materials and products.
Seeing broader opportunity for Canada, FPAC has recruited partners like FPInnovations to develop a bioeconomy supercluster proposal. Not only is Canada rich in sustainable biomass including forestry, agriculture and other sources, it also has a myriad of developed industries along with state-of-the-art research and innovation facilities that can leverage the potential of industrial biotechnology. Canada’s bioeconomy already has some 900 companies, sustains over two million jobs nationwide and generates over $300 billion in total annual revenue.
The notion of (what we are affectionately calling) a Bio Design Super Cluster is a new paradigm in Canadian Innovation. Designed to maximize feedstock value from a social, economic, environmental and cultural perspective this is a non-linear approach to product development; a truly Canadian approach that is based on decarbonizing the consumer market through a whole value chain, circular economy approach. It would connect players along the value chain from biological feedstocks to specific bio-based market applications, building on our current investments and successes in creating world bio-based technologies, products and markets. Such a cluster will provide outstanding momentum to further attract the best ideas, the brightest talent, the leading companies and smart capital.
Our vision is for Canada to be a global leader in the bio economy. Our mission will be to translate industrial biotechnology into tangible commercial outcomes throughout the Canadian economy.
By establishing a national Bio Design Super Cluster, Canada will send a very strong signal that it means to accelerate clean technology deployment and commercialization, throughout the country, and that this requires bold new thinking.
Designed as an inclusive nation-wide partnership, the Bio Design Super Cluster will connect and attract a wide range of industries and organizations from across the value chain, some of whom would otherwise remain unlikely partners. By leveraging our respective strengths, infrastructure and common goals, the super cluster will clearly accelerate knowledge transfer among mature companies, technology developers and end customers, while attracting international organizations in full support from participating research and innovation organizations and networks from across Canada. This is a Canadian super cluster.
Paul Lansbergen is a senior vice-president for Forest Products Association of Canada.
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