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Federal Government and Province of Quebec Invest in Transformative Technology Research
The Government of Canada recognizes that a prosperous forest sector brings many benefits to Canadians. Despite recent challenges faced by the forest sector, growing global markets and technological innovation offer the potential for Canada’s forest sector to find new market niches in the bioeconomy, producing everything from green power to petrochemical substitutes to components for the automotive and aerospace sectors. Maintaining and building upon Canadian leadership in the development of early deployment of transformative technologies in the sector is key to realizing these opportunities.
There are a broad range of potential commercial uses that include paints and coatings, films and barriers, textiles, composites, paper (retention aids and binders), excipients (a material used in the pharmaceutical industry as a binder in tablets), cosmetics and other advanced materials.
Supporting the Bioeconomy of Quebec
The Government of Canada, through FPInnovations, Canada’s national not-for-profit forest research organization, is investing $10.2 million to further develop and commercialize nanocrystalline cellulose (NCC) technology. This Transformative Technologies Pilot-scale Demonstration project will support the construction of a new facility at the Domtar pulp and paper mill in Windsor, Quebec. The new facility is expected to produce one tonne of nanocrystalline cellulose per day.
The new facility will be the first of this scale in the world and thus represents a landmark in the development of a new series of renewable industrial and consumer products created from forest biomass.
Total costs of the pilot-scale demonstration plant are expected to be roughly $32.4 million with Québec and Domtar investing $10.2 and $12 million, respectively. Moreover, once the pilot-scale demonstration plant commences production, Domtar and FPInnovations will make further investments in nanocrystalline cellulose marketing and applications development.
Up to the 1950s, many products that were regarded as revolutionary in their time such as Scotch tape, rayon and cellophane were made from cellulose. The cellulose in these innovative products was eventually replaced by compounds derived from cheaper oil/fossil fuel. Technological innovations like nanocrystalline cellulose offer the prospect of opening new, high-value markets to Canada’s forest sector producing advanced materials using nanotechnology.
NCC is cellulose in crystalline form, which is derived from wood. FPInnovations has developed a process to extract this material from woody biomass, and process it into solid flake, liquid and gel forms. Several key features such as high strength, electro-magnetic response and a large surface area provide a basis for the manufacture of new and advanced materials using nanotechnology.
Nanocrystalline cellulose is the primary structural building block of trees and other plants and can be extracted from forest biomass through a patented FPInnovations process. Abundant, renewable and biodegradable, nanocrystalline cellulose has also been shown to be practically non-toxic, a significant advantage over most other existing nanomaterials.
Through funding provided by the Government of Canada, small quantities of NCC have been produced by FPInnovations at its laboratories and tested in a variety of new product applications. Nanocrystalline cellulose and other nanomaterials have been shown to enhance the properties of paints, varnishes and other coatings as well as the strength of some composite materials. Funding of this new facility in Windsor, Quebec, will enable the production of much larger quantities of NCC to perform large-scale trials and needed to identify and develop the most promising markets for this product.
Promoting Forest Innovation and Investment
The Government of Canada is committed to helping Canada’s forest sector take advantage of these new opportunities by researching innovative products that meet the needs of the marketplace. The key to a strong future for the forest sector is to promote innovation and entrepreneurial activity within a competitive business environment.
As outlined in Canada’s Economic Action Plan, the Government of Canada is providing $170 million over two years to improve the forest sector’s long-term competitiveness through renewed investments in market diversification and forest innovation with about half of these funds being invested in Quebec. This funding includes $120 million to help promote forest innovation and investment and $50 million to expand market opportunities for Canadian forest products. Other key Government of Canada initiatives in support of forest sector sustainability and renewal include the $1-billion Pulp and Paper Green Transformation Program. Quebec-based pulp and paper companies will access $265 million of available funds under the Pulp and Paper Green Transformation Program to improve their environmental performance. Budget 2010 committed an additional $100 million over four years to support the development and commercialization of advanced technologies in the forest sector.
In April 2009, the Government of Canada in partnership with the Government of Quebec, led a Canada-Quebec Task Team to coordinate efforts to support that province’s forest industry. The Task Team identified a number of key areas of shared interest for early action. In May 2009, $200 million was announced to support silviculture operations in the province of Quebec. Each government invested $100 million in these operations with an additional $30 million announced in July 2009 to restore bridges and improve maintenance on multi-use roads in Quebec. These investments are resulting in the creation and maintenance of more than 8,300 jobs in Quebec.
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