By: Vancouver Sun
A world leading, Canadian-based partnership in research and innovation is behind remarkable technology that in the near future will give us the ability to make airplane parts and create material for bone replacement and tooth repairs out of trees. Yes, out of trees.
There’s only one thing that can stop such amazing advancements — the lack of a real commitment by governments for long-term and sustainable funding for innovation and research. Although it is promising to hear Federal Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains say the government plans to “harness the power of innovation to create well-paying jobs”, we need to see that backed up with action.
FPInnovations, one of the world’s largest private-public partnerships, is jointly funded by government and industry. It is developing cutting-edge technologies for Canada’s forest industry, like technology that uses the structural building blocks of trees for material that can be used for auto parts and bone replacement. FPInnovations will see its federal funding expire in 2018. That funding of $100 million over four years is imperative if we are to see advancements that use wood to make life better, create green jobs in forestry and help Canada compete in the international marketplace.
We’re also recommending government support the commercialization of advanced wood products, bio products and clean technology with $200 million for the program similar to the successful Investments into a Forestry Transformation (IFIT) program.
The Forest Products Association of Canada recently went before the Federal Standing Committee on Finance to make our case for long-term and sustainable funding to support innovation in our industry. The science and research required to translate innovation into marketable products takes a sustained focus for years and any hiatus of funding has the potential to derail critical projects.
Innovation is something the forest products sector has been doing innately for years, continually diversifying into higher-value niche areas such as bio-energy, bio-chemicals, nano-technology and advanced construction materials.
The country’s wood, pulp and paper sector is a $65-billion industry, which has seen dramatic changes in the economic, global and technological landscape — the latest challenge of course, being the ongoing softwood lumber dispute. As a result, our mills are adapting to these changes and making bold, innovative and game-changing decisions in everything they do.
Despite our challenges, the forest products sector has been at the heart of the Canadian economy, providing 230,000 direct jobs and 1 million indirect jobs across the country. In the future, more and more of those forestry jobs will require lab coats instead of boots and hard hats.
Our passion for innovation allows us to spearhead our “30 By 30” climate change commitment, which will remove 30 megatonnes of carbon every year by 2030, accounting for more than 13 per cent of the Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction target.
Our hope now is that the federal government demonstrates the same long-term commitment to innovation that will ensure our forests remains clean, green and growing and contribute to the government’s innovation, environment and economic agenda for generations to come.
Derek Nighbor is the CEO of the Forest Products Association of Canada.
By: Vancouver Sun