$700K research investment to boost B.C.’s bio-economy

VANCOUVER – A $700,000 investment to help forest companies create jobs by turning their waste wood into high-value bio-products will address many of the recommendations from government’s Bio-Economy Committee, Pat Bell, Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation, said today.

The Bio-Economy Committee, chaired by John Yap, Parliamentary Secretary for Clean Technology, was formed in July to identify ways to expand B.C.’s bio-economy. Its report highlights the need for government to take a leading role in developing the bio-economy: www.gov.bc.ca/jti/down/bio_economy_report.pdf

As part of that role, the Province has provided $700,000 to FPInnovations, the world’s largest private, non-profit forest research institute, to gauge the extent of B.C.’s bio-economy today, and help industry identify cost-effective fibre available for new projects, including areas affected by the mountain pine beetle. This will help international investors identify opportunities in B.C., as well as give government the data it needs to develop programs and policies to help the province’s bio-economy expand.

FPInnovations will also assess mills in the B.C. Interior for opportunities to add innovative bio-product streams to their current operations. These products could be a combination of energy, green chemicals and other bio-materials, which can reduce waste, create jobs and improve the mills’ bottom lines.

Products being made from wood fibre today include renewable fuels, textiles, light-weight plastics, food additives, pharmaceuticals and oil. On the drawing board are things like bio-active paper products, including facial masks that deactivate viruses; composites for airplane structures; jet fuel additives; and a substitute for petroleum products used to manufacture rubber for tires.

FPInnovations will also examine how trucks used in the forest industry can reduce emissions and save energy, which may include using bio-fuels produced in B.C.

MLAs Yap (Richmond-Steveston), Bob Simpson (Cariboo North), Eric Foster (Vernon-Monashee), John Rustad (Nechako Lakes) and Ron Cantelon (Parksville-Qualicum) sat on the Bio-Economy Committee, which made five key recommendations in its report:
* Establish a clear, long-term bio-economy vision.
* Improve access to fibre and feedstock.
* Establish a technology development strategy.
* Develop markets for B.C. bioproducts and aggressively market B.C.’s advantages.
* Integrate the bio-economy’s infrastructure needs into provincial initiatives.

The Province’s investment, funded within its existing fiscal plan, adds to the $600,000 FPInnovations has received from the federal government under the Transformative Technologies Research Program of Natural Resources Canada. With that funding, FPInnovations has been undertaking a series of research projects aimed at developing emerging and breakthrough technologies.