Foresight recently hosted a groundbreaking Bioeconomy Reverse Pitch Challenge, an official side event of the World Circular Economy Forum held December 3 & 4, 2020.
Fueled by a projected C$240 billion bioeconomy opportunity in Canada by 2030, and sponsored by Natural Resources Canada’s Canadian Forest Service (NRCan-CFS), the event focused on providing opportunities and making connections for innovators with circular bioeconomy solutions across the automotive, construction and packaging value chains.
In the first part of the event, we heard from companies looking for bio-economy solutions. Here’s what we learned.
An Early Market Growing Quickly
Like many emerging markets, the circular bioeconomy is in the process of defining itself. We learned early that while the projects people were working on would fit into the definition of circular economy (low/no waste solutions, decarbonization through re-use/capture of carbon, bioproducts replacing petroleum products, etc), the people themselves often categorized their work in different ways.
For example, no one we spoke to had the job title “Circular Bioeconomy Specialist” – they were the Innovation Manager, Environment Manager, Technical Expert, Sustainability Manager, business analyst, etc.. They also worked across many sectors, including in construction, automotive, textiles, cosmetics, and packaging.
Through this project, we were able to bring together a myriad of experts whose task was to find ways to eliminate waste and achieve the regenerative, sustainable goals of a circular economy.
While this is an emerging market, it is clear that there are many people across Canada working on developing renewable materials (from forestry, agriculture, marine environments and by-products waste streams) and turning these materials into everyday products like bioplastic packaging or soy-based foam for car seats. These new products and processes represent a huge opportunity for growth and innovation.
What are the Opportunities?
The market-place for these circular economy solutions and bioproducts is still quite early, and many products and value-chains are still being developed.
Innovators and researchers are looking at a multitude of industrial and manufacturing processes and developing new ways to eliminate waste, new ways to reuse materials, and new products that could be built. This drive for innovation and better ways of doing things will continue to grow over time and lead to new products, new technology ideas, new companies being launched, and potentially whole new industries.
For example, at the Reverse Pitch event we heard from several leading companies looking for innovative ideas:
- Ford Motor Company who is looking to improve the sustainable content in automotive plastics through:
- Solutions for incorporation of wood or natural fibres to thermoplastics without degradation and odour
- Carbon filler materials from wood with conductive properties that resemble carbon nanotubes (CNT) and graphene
- Suzano, one of the largest forest products companies in the world, who is seeking sustainable barrier coatings for flexible paper packaging.
- Lafarge Canada, who is looking for bio-based alternatives (either from traditional industries or by-product waste streams) to incorporate into their cement and aggregate materials.
Trends & What’s Next in the Circular Bioeconomy
These large companies understand that ongoing trends like increased recycling, extended regulations, consumer demand for sustainable products, and the overall drive to net-zero means that they will have to seek out ways to accelerate their innovative plans in order to develop circular solutions and novel bioproducts within the necessary time frames.
The demand is growing with the solutions providers as well – there was a significant interest in this event among researchers and technologists, many in traditional resource-based industries such as forestry.
The BC CORE Cleantech Cluster has a mission to support a clean economy and position BC as a global centre for innovation, talent and capital to scale cleantech innovation. It was exciting to see this mission come to life in this well-attended event that brought together innovators and leaders in the emerging market, and offered real deal-making introductions.
Market acceleration programs and events, such as the Reverse Pitch event (and other industrial challenges), are needed to support resource sectors as they transform into a value-added, circular bioeconomy.
(For recordings of the event, please visit our webinar recordings page.)
Interested in joining the CORE BC Cleantech Cluster? Get involved.