Home Blogs Paul Lansbergen From Wood Pulp to Super Pulps to Super Clusters

From Wood Pulp to Super Pulps to Super Clusters


Source: PA Achives

Canada has long been an important player and leader in the global forest products industry. I would like to tell our nation's story in three stages of innovation.

Canada's first pulp mill was built over two hundred years ago. Mind you, those early pulp mills used rags instead of trees. But as was recently celebrated by our now former Governor General, David Johnston, and Tom Jenkins, Chairman of OpenText, in their book on Canadian inventions, Charles Fenerty, in 1844 developed a process of making paper from ground wood pulp. As Johnston tells the story, Fenerty was inspired by wasps chewing wood fibres to make their nests. I, myself, try not to get that close to those nests. But the point is, Canada invented wood pulp and became a world leader in newsprint for over a century to come.

Not satisfied with ordinary wood pulp, Canada's innovators continued to experiment. Much of this focused on leveraging the long, slow-growing softwood fibres that are great at making strong papers and packaging products. But as readers know, technology has advanced such that less softwood fibres are required to produce the same grades of paper and packaging products as years gone by. However, Canada's days as a leading pulp producer are far from numbered. We are making smarter pulps to compete. Over the last decade research has led to CelluForce, the world's largest cellulose nanocrystalline (CNC) plant, and FiloCell™, a cellulose filament (CF) product produced at the world's first demonstration plant. Both CNC and CF have a wide variety of market applications, including as a strengthening additive to traditional pulp to make a 'super pulp'.

The last stage is one that is near and dear to my heart. Readers surely know that Canada, much like other nations, is diversifying beyond the traditional suite of forest products. Inspired by FPAC's ground-breaking BioPathways program of research, of which I was part, companies have developed and are implementing strategies to complement their existing production with the production of new, innovative bio-based materials and products. Last year, in response to a federal government announcement of a supercluster program to enhance Canada's innovation performance, I led the development of a bioeconomy supercluster proposal. Key partners include FPInnovations, Bioindustrial Innovation Canada, and Genome Canada. Others, too many to name, also helped to refine the concept and recruit companies to participate. The supercluster represents a new paradigm in Canadian innovation, focusing on decarbonizing the Canadian economy from a whole of value chain approach. The proposal was submitted in late July and the companies are now preparing to receive an invitation to proceed to the next stage in the application process. I know clusters are not new and other countries have their own cluster strategies. But I believe Canada's approach is novel and even an interesting social experiment in challenging unrelated businesses to come together to form their own supercluster. (perhaps a topic for a future blog).

Stay tuned for news over the coming months.


Paul Lansbergen has over 20 years' experience in public policy, advocacy and association leadership.
For the last 15 years, Paul was an integral part of the senior management team at the Forest Products Association of Canada. He is recognized for his strategic and operational corporate knowledge, as a consensus builder, and as a progressive leader.
Paul is a Certified Association Executive (CAE) and has two degrees in Economics. Paul is based in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

 
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