Networking for bioenergy?
December 2, 2011
By Paul Lansbergen
Biomass magazines do not often carry a column promoting a dating service, but this type of romance is not simply roses and champagne.
Biomass magazines do not often carry a column promoting a dating service, but this type of romance is not simply roses and champagne. The Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC) has launched a type of matchmaking service that reaches out to various sectors interested in exploring business development opportunities using wood-based bioproducts.
The idea of the Bio-pathways Partnership Network had its genesis in the Future Bio-pathways report. The report found that by integrating bioenergy, biochemicals and biomaterials within the traditional forest products sector, industry mills could enhance the industry’s product mix, add value and maximize the “triple bottom line” – clean energy, high employment and economic recovery.
The potential is enormous. The study opened our eyes to new possibilities and new opportunities for producing unconventional products, and identified a global market for bioproducts that could reach $200 billion by 2015.
However, taking advantage of that vast market doesn’t just require forward thinking – it requires deep pockets and strategic investments. The federal government has recognized the potential by announcing smart programs such as the $1-billion Pulp and Paper Green Transformation Program (PPGTP) and the Investment in Forest Industry Transformation program (IFIT).
But a helping hand is not enough. Industry is also rising to the challenge, but finding it’s not easy to go it alone, which is where the Bio-pathways Partnership Network comes in. Companies in the forest, energy, chemicals, rubber, auto, aerospace, technology and investment capital sectors have joined to foster business-to-business relationships. Other stakeholders including government, research organizations and other networking groups also play a role. Activities could include arranging expert speakers at workshops, hosting webinars, compiling research or visiting research facilities. But above all, the Network participants are meeting face to face, exploring the possibilities, exchanging ideas, and ultimately preparing the groundwork to utilize these new economic opportunities.
Why not partner the auto parts or aerospace industry with forest companies to produce lightweight plastics for airplanes or cars that reduce weight and therefore decrease fossil fuel consumption? What other possibilities are there to turn today’s pulp mills into the biorefineries of the future?
Are chemical companies willing to partner on the production of new bioactive papers that could change colour when they come into contact with bacteria or help to enhance food freshness?
How can Canada capitalize on its leading role in producing nano-crystalline cellulose from trees that could be used in everything from bulletproof vests to replacement bones for humans?
What about teaming with textile producers using dissolving pulp? Or nutrition companies interested in “green” food additives?
Many of the possibilities are being commercialized today. With countless innovations coming down the pipe, there are seemingly endless investment and partnering opportunities available. These are all products of the highest environmental quality coming from a renewable resource harvested by leading and progressive forestry practices, which makes these products more attractive in an increasingly discerning international marketplace.
The Network was established only in March of this year, and has already grown significantly, with about 200 organizations now engaged. The list includes: Daishowa, Dow and Dupont; Lockheed Martin, Lignol and Lanxess; Shell, Suncor and SunOpta; and Tembec, Tolko and Turboden. The list goes on and the numbers continue to grow. FPAC has even been active internationally, courting partnerships in the United States, Europe and Asia.
We are on the cusp of an exciting new future for a sector that has existed since long before Confederation. The forest industry has a fresh face that is “green,” innovative and looking for partners. Thanks to the Bio-pathways Partnerships dating service, we now have many companies who are checking each other out to see if they’re compatible and ready to connect on a more serious level. If you want to be set up with others interested in forest-derived bioproducts – the Bio-pathways Parthership Network is the dating service for you!
Paul Lansbergen is the association secretary for FPAC and the lead director for Regulatory Affairs. He leads the Bio-pathways Partnership Network and in his spare time is learning to manage his woodlot. More on the Bio-pathways network can be found online and in LinkedIn. Visit FPAC’s website at www.fpac.ca.
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