Home PAPTAC 2018 PWC/BIOFOR Coverage Clustering is the Road Ahead

Clustering is the Road Ahead

Eric Ashby, Vice President and Mill Manager of Domtar's Windsor Facility introduced the keynote speaker of PaperWeek 2018's last business luncheon: Murray McLaughlin, President of McLaughlin Consultants Advisor - Bioindustrial Innovation Canada.

Dr. McLaughlin is well known for the role he played in the establishment of Saskatchewan as a world leader in the biotechnology industry. His presentation focused on the role industry clusters have in successful technological advancements. Clusters increase productivity and operational efficiency, they stimulate and enable innovation and, perhaps most importantly, they accelerate commercialization. A key ingredient for success with a cluster approach is that "everyone is on the same train," which can be useful for the forest industry and all its allies, since there is still no comprehensive national strategy on the bioeconomy.

Staying Friends With the Petroleum Industry

While climate change represents grave dangers to society as a whole, it can present opportunity for innovation clusters to thrive, and Murray McLaughlin suggested a hybrid industrial sector that combines the forestry and petroleum industries could be a solution. Instead of a thinking in terms of replacing an industry, energy would be better focused on cooperation and, "imagining how the petroleum industry's deep pockets could benefit the forest sector of the next century."

As Canada transitions to a greener, low carbon economy, and as sustainably managed forests and agricultural biomass have an increasingly vital role to play in this emerging bioeconomy, McLaughlin suggested that our forests and agricultural biomass are the inevitable answers to the global climate solution. Innovative products are now being produced from fibre and are complementing or replacing traditional fossil fuel-based products. Creating a viable biomass supply chain will require significant research and innovation on issues such as land requirements to ensure sustainability and optimize yields, process optimization to increase efficiency and eliminate waste from the supply chain or biomass and cellulosic sugar quality requirements and standards to maximize the value of bioproducts.

Sarnia Hybrid Cluster

Sarnia has been petroleum cluster since 1860. In the 1990s, however, it began to suffer the effects of a diminishing workforce. In response, a series of consultations led to a decision to establish a green and sustainable cluster around the existing petroleum hub. Fossil based industries that are now a part of the new cluster include BP Energy, DuPont, Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell and Suncor Energy. Bio and renewable based enterprises have also thrown their hats in the ring and include Cargill, Biox, Woodland Biofuels, SuncoreEthanol, and Origin.

One of McLaughlin accomplishments was helping attract BioAmber to the Sarnia area to build its first commercial-scale plant. The company describes itself as 'a sustainable chemical company with a proprietary technology platform that combines industrial biotechnology and chemical catalysis to convert renewable feedstock into chemicals for use in a wide variety of everyday products including plastics, resins, food additives and personal care products.' He also noted a number of other developing bioeconomy clusters in Canada, in the forestry sector in particular, interesting case studies include sites in British Columbia, Eastern Ontario, Central Quebec and the Maritimes.

McLaughlin suggested that innovation clusters are key to building Canada's bioeconomy. They have the advantage of consolidating international partnerships while obtaining strong support for research and development. "No one has all the answers, it takes partnerships" McLaughlin concluded.

© Paper Advance

Mathieu Régnier, Journalist,
Paper Advance


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