Ontario's Bio Advantage

Bioeconomy Research and Innovation

Ontario is home to outstanding research and educational institutions.

More than $14 billion in research and development happens every year in Ontario through the efforts of public and private sector researchers. Eighteen of Canada's top 50 research universities are in Ontario, making it widely recognized for excellence. The province's multi-billion dollar research funding programs attract leading scientists from around the world.

Over half of those universities are directly involved in building Ontario's bioproduct capacity in research and innovation, through collaborative projects across the province. Several regional organizations have formed in the past decade to promote innovation in different areas of the bioeconomy.

Scientist in lab

The Ontario Network of Entepreneurs (ONE) - funded by the Ministry of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure/ Ministry of Research and Innovation is a regional network of 90 centres that provide advice and support for entrepreneurs who want to start and grow successful businesses. The Ontario Centre of Excellence (OCE) and MaRS are part of ONE and work side by side with industry to deliver innovations to the global market. Many companies working in the bioeconomy sector benefit from interactions with the members of ONE.

Significant investments are flowing through the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA)/University of Guelph Agreement to support agri-food industry priorities and collaboration between the industry and academic institutions. OMAFRA invested more than $350 million (over five years starting in 2008) through this partnership agreement which is dedicated to demand-driven agri-food and rural research and supporting agri­food research infrastructure. A significant portion of this funding supports efforts in the bioeconomy including projects under the Ministry themes of Bioeconomy-Industrial Uses; Environmental Sustainability; Agriculture and Rural Policy; Product Development and Enhancement through Value Chains; and Production Systems.

In addition to the partnership agreement with University of Guelph, OMAFRA invests in research at other institutions through open competitive funding programs like the New Directions Research Program.

Public and private sector interest in bioresearch is driving attention and innovation across Ontario in bioproducts (materials, energy and chemicals) and components along the bioeconomy value chain (feedstock production, primary processing and manufacturing of bioproducts).

An ever-growing number of companies - new and established from other manufacturing sectors - are also developing innovative products and processes with Ontario's abundant feedstock, highly educated and skilled workforce, and easy access to supply chains and markets. They all recognize the tremendous and timely opportunities with Ontario's emerging bioeconomy, and the importance of this sector for global environmental and economic well-being. While private research and development (R&D) investment is significant, the focus of this document is on publicly funded capacity in the province of Ontario.

Ontario's innovation capacity - recent and ongoing investments

  • $14 billion - in research and development happens every year in Ontario through the efforts of public and private sector researchers
  • $350 million - OMAFRA's five year investment (2008-2013) in agri-food and rural research at the University of Guelph
  • $4.25 million -expansion to the Bioproducts Discovery and Development Centre in Guelph, opened November 2013
  • $7 million over four years - federal funding (2014­2018) received by the Bioindustrial Innovation Centre (BIC) in Sarnia for a national bioproducts cluster to help bridge the gap between research and market-ready products
  • $16 million over five years - funding received by the Agri-Technology Commercialization Centre to support development and commercialization of bioproducts
  • 18 - number of Canada's top 50 research universities located in Ontario, 10 of which contributed to bioproduct research and innovation.

Powering Ontario's Bioproduct Development - Research Centres

In Ontario, the emerging bioeconomy has established a firm foothold through a diverse range of research centres - each bringing a strength and speciality for its geographic region or industry sector. Together, these groups are powering tremendous research and innovation in Ontario's bioeconomy. Below are a few examples of bioproducts-focused research and innovation centres in Ontario.

Bioproducts Discovery and Development Centre (BDDC), University of Guelph

  • Interdisciplinary centre where plant biologists, chemists and engineers collaborate to investigate and commercialize biomaterials
  • Unique Ontario facility brings industry and university-based researchers together to explore new materials and processing techniques - especially valuable for automotive, packaging and building material sectors
  • BDDC innovations help Canada grow its bioeconomy, and help companies reduce greenhouse gas emissions and overall environmental footprint
  • Received $4.25 million in 2013 for expansion of the centre from the Bank of Montreal, Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario, and OMAFRA, as well as previous funding from Premier's Research Chair, Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), and the Ontario Research Fund-Research Infrastructure program
  • Hosted the 13th International Symposium on Bioplastics, Biocomposites and Biorefining in 2014
  • Offers an extensive array of services for companies interested in: bioplastics and biobased polymers; green composites, natural fibre; composites and biocomposites; sustainable packaging; biobased nanocomposites and nanoblends; lignin-reinforced thermoplastics and thermosetting polymer composites; biobased materials from the co-products of biofuel industries; biomass and biomaterials sustainability and recyclables, durability and biodegradability studies.

Biomaterials Research Program, Trent University

  • A $3-million Senior Industrial Research Chair, focused on biomaterials, and funded from NSERC, Elevance Renewable Sciences, Inc. and Ontario Grain Farmers in the year 2010.
  • Additional laboratory infrastructure funding provided by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA)
  • Focus on using vegetable oils (soybean, canola, flax, corn, jatropha, palm) to synthesize functional polymers (for use as coatings, biomedical delivery systems and other specialized polymers), lubricants, greases and waxes, for the delivery of bioactive compounds and fertilizers, and crystallized networks of lipids for use as healthy food materials.

Institute for Chemicals and Fuels from Alternative Resources (ICFAR), University of Western Ontario

  • Fundamental and applied research and development for producing renewable fuels and chemicals, heavy oil conversion and sustainable technologies
  • Helping move research from lab bench to pilot plant/ demonstration project - and facilitate technology transfer and commercialization
  • $5 million investment by Ontario in 2008 established 20,000 square foot research centre in London.

Ontario Genomics Institute

  • A private, not-for-profit corporation focused on using world-class research to create strategic genomics resources and accelerate Ontario's development of a globally-competitive life sciences sector
  • Since inception, OGI has worked with some 67 projects funded through various research programs and covering a broad spectrum of genomics applications, with budgets totalling over $800 million.

Biorefining Research Initiative at Lakehead University, Thunder Bay

  • Focusing on biorefining forest biomass through bioconversion, chemical conversion and forest microbiota
  • Developing new technologies to create products from renewable forest biomass in a sustainable manner
  • Encouraging new business ventures and employment through biorefinery processes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and dependence on fossil fuels.

Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology, University of Waterloo

  • An interdisciplinary centre of excellence pioneering high impact research and innovation in nanotechnology including nano-materials, nano-electronics, nano-instrumentation and nano-biosystems.

Commercialization Support for Excellence in Bioeconomy

Ontario attracts many unique groups to help manufacturers and researchers to bring innovative new biobased products to market. Some of these groups offer commercialization and innovation support and expert advice, others provide funding support and play a coordination role while others offer pilot plant and technology demonstration facilities.

Agri-Technology Commercialization Centre (ATCC)

  • Supports development and commercialization of bioproducts through organizations that work with producers, researchers and agricultural entrepreneurs
  • Includes BioEnterprise, Ontario Agri-Food Technologies and Soy 20/20 - groups that support companies at various stages along the innovation chain
  • Funded by more than $15 million through Growing Forward 2 initiatives (federal and provincial funding) to make Ontario's agriculture industry more innovative, competitive and profitable by commercializing new agricultural products.

BioEnterprise - a private, non-profit commercialization agent working with companies from start up and early stage, to emerging and well-established businesses. Services include business planning through to attracting early stage venture capital investment. BioEnterprise is a registered Limited Market Dealer, licensed under the Ontario Securities Commission.

Ontario Agri-Food Technologies - a non-profit organization offering leadership to help companies use technology to generate wealth and sustainability for the agricultural and food industries of Ontario.

Soy 20/20 - a not-for-profit organization connecting government, academic and industry partners to stimulate and seize new global bioscience opportunities for Canadian soybeans.

Bioindustrial Innovation Canada (BIC), Sarnia

  • Helping Canada become a globally recognized leader in turning renewable, sustainable feedstock (agricultural and forestry by-products and wastes) into energy and value-added chemicals for use in applications ranging from construction to automotive parts
  • $7 million in funding from the federal government to form a national bioproducts cluster (2014)
  • $50 million initial investment - $10 million from Ontario, $15 million from the Government of Canada and $25 million leveraged from other sources including industry, institutions and municipalities
  • Creating North America's first biotechnology laboratories and shared pilot plant facilities for gasification, pyrolysis, fermentation and bioconversion - key technologies to convert agricultural and forestry by-products into fuels, chemicals, products and materials
  • Located at the Sarnia Lambton Campus of the University of Western Ontario Research Park
  • BIC manages the Ontario Sustainable Chemistry Alliance Fund
  • Serves the emerging new industry in Canada, bridging the gap between biochemistry and synthetic chemistry and offers funding for high potential emerging innovations and breakthroughs in the biochemicals area.

Centre for Research and Innovation in the Bioeconomy (CRIBE), Thunder Bay

  • Provincial initiative to transform the forest products industry in Northern Ontario
  • Not-for-profit research corporation partnering with organizations to direct research results and innovative business opportunities into operational reality
  • Provincial government 2008 budget announcement of a $25 million investment over four years to move Ontario to the forefront of commercialization in the forest products industry.

Green Centre Canada

  • GreenCentre, located at Innovation Park at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, is a member of the Ontario Network of Excellence (ONE) and the Centres of Excellence for Commercialization and Research (CECR)
  • Objective is to commercialize green chemistry innovations emerging from academia and the entrepreneurial community and get them to industry and to the market.
  • Formed in 2009 and funded by the governments of Ontario and Canada, and industry
  • The Centre's product and application development activities are housed in a 10,000 square foot facility dominated by state-of-the-art wet labs with solvent-handling systems, inert atmosphere glove boxes and standard analytical equipment.

Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs (ONE) and Ontario Centre of Excellence (OCE)

  • A network of organizations spread across the province that can provide a range of customized resources, services and programs for entrepreneurs and businesses of all sizes
  • In partnership with industry, OCE co-invests to commercialize innovation originating in the province's publicly funded colleges, universities and research hospitals. OCE will support and invest in early-stage projects, where the probability of commercial success and potential total return on innovation are substantial. Development of the next generation of innovators through entrepreneurship fellowships and programs for students and youth across Ontario is another growing area of activity for OCE.

Centre for Agricultural Renewable Energy and Sustainability (CARES), Ridgetown Campus, University of Guelph

  • Creating an applied research and demonstration facility for full testing and integration of new technologies - to deliver direct benefits at the farm gate
  • Hub for applied and adaptive research, training and education, technology transfer, and rural community development in bioenergy and the bioeconomy
  • Advancing innovation and adoption of bioenergy through minimizing risk, benchmarking and creating value-added components
  • Received $900,000 from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's Advancing Canadian Agriculture and Agri-Food Program to support research and innovation at CARES.

Canada Backs Ontario's Bio Advantage with Research Capacity

Canada invests significant funding to retain and attract world-class researchers across a broad spectrum of research and development.

The Canada Research Chairs Program provides substantial funding to create mini centres of excellence around the world-class expertise of one or more academics at an institution. Further funding for infrastructure to support Chairs is available through the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI). The Research Chairs Program builds key human resources and signals the research strength and support by Ontario and Canada for bioresearch.

In 2014, there were over 600 Canada Research Chairs at 19 universities in Ontario - and many of these chairs are relevant to the bioeconomy and agricultural bioresearch and development.

Ontario is home to several federal government labs and research centres situated across the province with capacity that can support the bioeconomy.

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC)

The Southern Crop Protection and Food Research Centre (SCPFRC) in London, Ontario is one of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's (AAFC) national network of 19 research centres. The centre conducts research on crop genomics, bioproducts, and biopesticides.

AAFC conducts research in plant genetics at the Eastern Cereal and Oilseed Research Centre (ECORC) in Ottawa. In collaboration with national and international public and private sector organizations, the centre's research positions Canada as the world leader in food safety, innovation and environmentally responsible agricultural production. ECORC's primary focus is not on bioproducts, but its work represents a significant resource in genetic bioresources.

AAFC's Guelph Food Research Centre is conducting research on novel bioprocesses for separating and modifying agricultural and agri-food products that will have enhanced properties and commercial potential. They are also characterizing and identifying agricultural bioproducts for human, animal and industrial applications.

Natural Resources Canada (NRCan)

NRCan has bioenergy research at their Canmet-ENERGY Technology Centre in Ottawa - a Canadian leader in clean energy research and technology development.

More than 450 scientists, engineers and technicians with more than 100 years of experience at Canmet represent Canada's knowledge centre for scientific expertise on clean energy technologies.

  • Ensuring Canada is at the leading edge of clean energy technologies to reduce air and greenhouse gas emissions and improve the health of Canadians
  • Leaders in science and technology delivery within the federal government, serving as a provider and catalyst for a sustainable energy future for Canada
  • Managing science and technology programs and services, support the development of energy policy, codes and regulations, act as a window to federal financing - and working with partners to develop more energy efficient and cleaner technologies.

National Research Council (NRC)

NRC offers programs and collaboration opportunities in two areas related to the bioeconomy:

  • Bioenergy systems for viable stationary applications; and
  • Industrial biomaterials.

NRC has research facilities in Ontario and Quebec that are working in these areas. NRC partners and clients have access to industrial biomaterials research and technology development facilities, located from coast to coast.

Ontario: Open for Bio Innovation Business

Ontario is leading the new bioeconomy in Canada. With decades of ground work building an extensive portfolio of research facilities and education institutions, Ontario has created the foundation for an integrated, innovative biobased economy. We have the rich and diverse resource base, the ideas and innovation, the infrastructure and the human resource capacity. Join the powerhouse that is Ontario - and discover the endless opportunities for bioproducts and bioprocesses in bioenergy, biomaterials and biochemistry.

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Author: OMAFRA Staff
Creation Date: 9 August 2011
Last Reviewed: 14 April 2016