Building the Future through the Bioeconomy

Sept 19, 2018 – Murray McLaughlin, Bioindustrial Innovation Canada

What is the bioeconomy?  It is the focus on building a resource-efficient and sustainable economy. As Canada develops a strategy for its bioeconomy, we need to understand the full scope and definition as The knowledge-based production and utilization of biological resources to provide products, processes, and services in all sectors of trade and industry within the framework of a clean and sustainable economic system.

For over 70 years the petrochemical industry drove significant global growth and an expanded chemistry industry. But, control of greenhouse gas is creating transformation and development of a hybrid chemistry industry, setting a new global standard for the 21st century.

This shift puts Canada in a unique position to become a global leader in the world of chemistry. We have the  resources to create a sustainable hybrid chemistry industry. The resources are agriculture, forestry, and waste materials. The knowledge is within Canada’s universities and industries, or other areas of the globe that need our natural resources.

Sarnia cluster at the helm

In Sarnia a true hybrid cluster has developed in the area of green and sustainable chemistry, based on fostering partnerships and on having all the right individuals come together within industry, colleges, universities, and governments to support the cluster.

Sarnia-Lambton is becoming a site location for the bio-based chemical industry and green energy (solar) industry. Sarnia is known for playing to its strengths and is characterized as a leader in bioeconomy. This reputation proves a region can be recast, moving from tough economic times to a future filled with opportunity. As the Eastern Canadian hub for refined petroleum and petrochemical products, Sarnia-Lambton has a promising future thanks to the ongoing work of the local community and key organizations that drive a vision to transform the region into a leading centre for bioeconomy. In addition, the area boasts one of the world’s strongest clusters of education for the chemical industry.

The rich opportunity in Sarnia-Lambton starts with its significant infrastructure — pipelines, feedstock, storage caverns, power, gas and steam supplies, transportation and distribution arteries, including rail systems, shipping channels, and a deep-sea port. In addition, there is brainpower, the hum of human energy, and dedication to addressing the needs of the future by developing unique, sustainable, alternate energy supplies, biomaterials, and bio-based chemicals — creating a true hybrid cluster.

Leadership for the bioeconomy

The shift is  truly positive for Sarnia-Lambton and one that just made sense. The facilities to make this change happen are already in Sarnia, but the benefit is that the community, the county, the city, and the petro-chemical industry are all highly supportive of this initiative. They see the benefits of having Sarnia leverage these strengths and build the hybrid chemical based industry.
Bioindustrial Innovation Canada has been a key catalyst in getting the Sarnia cluster established and will continue to work with Sarnia to see the cluster continue to grow. With new provincial funding from the Ministry of Research and Innovation (MRI) to support the activities of BIC, we will also be able to work with other rural communities in Ontario over the next four years to help build the bioeconomy.
In the announcement of the funding, Minister Moridi stated: “You can’t just have discovery, you need to be able to monetize your research investments and bring the discoveries to the market place.” That’s where BIC comes in.

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