Forest industry gets $100M for innovation

August 4, 2010   by PLANT STAFF

Innovating with cast-off fibre from the production of forestry products.

Photo: FPAC

VANCOUVER: Canada’s forestry industry now has a $100 million fund available to it for the development of innovative bio projects and technologies that can be integrated with current forestry operations.

The federal government Investments in Forest Industry Transformation (IFIT) program, announced in the 2010 budget, is looking for projects that are eligible for funding of up to 50 per cent.

The Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC) sees the funding as support of the industry’s focus on making Canada a global biotechnologies and products powerhouse.

“[This] announcement makes it clear that the Canadian government understands that jobs in the forest industry can only be secured through transformation and that they are ready to play their part,” said Avrim Lazar, President and CEO of FPAC.

Andrew Casey, FPAC’s vice-president of public relations and international trade, told PLANT projects would make use of the cast-off fibre produced in forestry operations, breaking down the chemical components, reconstructing them and transforming them into chemical additives, new materials and bio-based fuels.

“New products could replace fibreglass, or plastics, and with processing further down the line, replace products based on fossil fuels,” he said.

The strategy is detailed in FPAC’s Future Bio-pathways Project report, released earlier this year, which focuses on developing environmentally sustainable products that secure industry jobs.

Since 2002, FPAC says 110,000 forest industry jobs have been lost. Casey said integrating traditional forestry products with bio-products has the potential to create five times as many jobs as a standalone bio-operation.

The investments could range from small technology add-ons at a mill to significant add-ons, particularly to produce biofuel. Casey said some investments will involve breaking down the waste and transporting it to a processor off-site, “but it’s better to try and extract as much value as possible close to the forest so more of the money stays within the industry.”

The $54-billion-a-year forest products industry represents almost 2% of Canada’s GDP.

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