Canada has huge forest resources and a very well-established forest industry. What in your opinion are the most exciting of the evolving bio-based products?
Canada is a leader at developing and attracting technologies. On the forestry side, Canada has supported a number of larger demonstration plants producing bioproducts. Biomaterials such as cellulose filament, lignin and bio-black are now being produced in Canada at various sites (e.g., Celluforce, Kruger, Resolute, West Fraser, CGT). Biochemicals such as organic acids and derivatives are produced commercially and at pilot scale. Biocrude and renewable fuels projects are under development from both forestry and agricultural feedstocks.
Canada does not have dedicated bio strategy for the time being. Do you think there is a need for a dedicated biostrategy in Canada?
Yes, Canada needs an industrial bioeconomy strategy. In May 2019, Bioindustrial Innovation Canada, together with its BioDesign consortium partners, launched Canada’s first National Bioeconomy Strategy which reflects the views of more than 400 industry representatives from across the country.
Consultations with industry concluded a national strategy is needed to fully advance Canada’s bioeconomy. The strategy recognizes the role of innovation clusters and ecosystems as key to advancing Canada’s bioeconomy. These venues will facilitate relationships between producers, SMEs, and large firms along the full value chain, domestically and globally.
With this strategy, industry has addressed the ways in which Canada’s competitive advantages including access to biomass, global leadership in forestry and agriculture, sustainable resource management, and a skilled workforce, can make Canada a world leader.
The next World BioEconomy Forum is in the Global South. Even though conditions in Global South regions are different to the Boreal area – do you see issues where Canada could learn from Brazil?
As you noted, their reality is quite different (species, fast-growing plantations, large modern mills, etc.) so translating standard pulp and paper business practices is difficult. For these reasons, the South American industry is in a better financial position than the Canadian industry and is investing in technology and in early-stage companies with industrial biotechnology. A good example is Suzano’s investment in Canadian start-ups such as Celluforce, Ensyn, Spinnova (textile) and its acquisition of Lignol and its patent portfolio a few years ago. Other South American companies are investing into their own research (e.g., lignin extraction processes) and their R&D capacity is quite good and growing fast.
Sandy Marshall is one of the esteemed panelists at the World BioEconomy Forum Roundtable.