Home PAPTAC 2018 PWC/BIOFOR Coverage Building Canada’s Bioeconomy Cluster: Value Chain Gaps and their Solutions

Building Canada’s Bioeconomy Cluster: Value Chain Gaps and their Solutions

Paul Stuart, Professor at École Polytechnique de Montréal, kicked off the Transformation Engineering session of Biofor 2018 with a keynote speech titled "Building Canada's Bioeconomy Cluster: Value Chain Gaps and their Solutions". Stuart opened his talk by noting that we are on the cusp of an historical opportunity for Canada to benefit from its forest resources, industry and universities.

Paul Stuart, Professor at École Polytechnique de Montréal. © Paper Advance

Stuart focused his speech on the outcome of four workshops with participants from industry, research and other stakeholders across Canada. A total of 142 people took part in the workshops, which identified 22 possible value chains for the bioeconomy. A white paper will be published on the topic.

Stuart stressed a successful value chain must ensure that each successive 'link in the chain increases its value on a level that exceeds the cost of its transition. Each part of the chain must gain something, which isn't always easily done. Stuart underscored the importance of being first in a market for an added value product, as a big part of its future success depends on how early it got to the game. Being first allows the player to set the rule and effectively dictate to anyone who comes in next what those rules of the game will be. It requires an ability to take risks, and knowing how to mitigate them.

He gave some examples of attributes of successful clusters:

  • Spawning of innovation to improve competitiveness on a global scale
  • Facilitation of access to funding for research, development and deployment
  • Assisting with value chain operational flexibility, supply chain efficiency and global effectiveness
  • Intensity of cluster is increased and refined over time and gives rise to further growth.

An essential player in a successful cluster aiming at to develop new products is an anchor firm – the player who buys the products from producers upstream. Anchor firms can also build and operate a biorefinery and Stuart noted that companies can be anchor firms in the bioeconomy.

A cluster needs financing for projects, business analytics, IP support, pilot possibilities and more. Sarnia is one example of a complex, small scale biorefinery producing a full range of bio-based products. Big pulp mills produce big side streams for interesting new products, like the Äänekoski bioproduct mill, a Finnish example of a large scale anchor firm.

It is essential to identify the value chain gaps, Stuart cautioned, which requires people from different backgrounds and companies. In the workshops five value chain gaps were identified:

  • Market production imbalance
  • Waste streams innovations
  • Proven second transformation technologies
  • Robust business model from market diversity
  • Potential barriers to market access.

Market demand should be created by market pull firms and/or catalysed by government procurement policy.

Stuart strongly pushed the concept of open innovation as an effective way of developing products out of side streams or waste.


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