Ontario's Bio Advantage Sector Profile

Spotlight on Biochemicals

Biochemicals are bulk/basic and specialty/fine chemicals produced from renewable bio-based feedstocks, including:

  • industrial chemicals - cleaners, lubricants, sealants, solvents
  • intermediate biochemicals - ethylene, succinic acid
  • chemical inputs/feedstocks for production of other products - oils, sugars, phenols, resins
  • biopharmaceuticals - vaccines from genetically engineered plants

Ontario's Biochemical Advantage

Access to major markets

  • Located less than a day's drive of the largest markets in North America
  • Well established distribution channels/transportation networks.
  • Extensive manufacturing capacity
  • Large manufacturing base with advanced expertise to transition to biobased inputs
  • Ontario is home to more than 1,200 chemical manufacturing establishments - seven of the top 10 global chemical companies have a presence in Ontario
  • Chemical manufacturing is the fourth-largest industry among manufacturing sectors in Ontario based on sales of $21.9 billion annually.

Highly skilled workforce

  • Highly skilled manufacturing, chemical and agricultural workforce
  • Chemical manufacturing is the fifth-largest employer among manufacturing sectors in Ontario with more than 42,000 employees.
  • Extensive research capacity
  • Extensive research and development (R&D) capacity with 20 universities and 24 colleges.
  • Commercialization support
  • Network of innovation and commercialization support through established organizations and funding.
  • Well established value chain
  • Extensive value chain exists for products manufactured in bulk/basic chemicals and resins, specialty chemicals, and fine chemicals and pharmaceuticals
  • Well established distribution channels/transportation networks.
  • Availability of biobased feedstock from agriculture and forest based products and byproducts
  • Growing bioproduct manufacturing.

Ontario's Biochemical Infrastructure

The following are some examples of initiatives in Ontario's biochemical sector.

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


  • Conducts fundamental and applied research and development in the production of renewable fuels and chemicals, heavy oil conversion and sustainable technologies
  • Research from lab to large pilot plant/demonstration pyrolysis technology, which can convert a broad range of biomass materials to bio-oil which then can be made into insecticides, pesticides, pharmaceuticals or engine fuels, and solid bio-char as an effective soil amendment and for use in liquid filtration systems.

Bio-Industrial Innovation Center (BIC), Sarnia


  • Helping Canada become a globally recognized leader in turning renewable, sustainable feedstock (agricultural and forestry byproducts and wastes) into energy and value-added chemicals for use in applications ranging from construction to automotive parts
  • 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
  • BIC manages the Ontario Sustainable Chemistry Alliance Fund (www.suschemalliance.ca)
  • 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.

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.

Bio-Refining Research Initiative at Lakehead University, Thunder Bay


  • Research focus on biorefi ning, developing new technologies for bioconversion, chemical conversion and forest microbiota - of forest biomass; creating chemical alternatives.

Biochemical Industry Success

The following are examples of Ontario companies using biobased products in their manufacturing process and/or preparing biobased materials.

  • Bioamber - has a proprietary technology platform to convert renewable feedstocks into biochemicals that are a cost-competitive replacement for petroleum derived chemicals.
  • Bioamber will use sugar from corn to produce bio-succinic acid, a building-block chemical used in plastics, resins, de­icers, pharmaceuticals, food additives, cosmetics and other products. BioAmber Inc. has initiated commissioning activities for its 30,000 MT capacity bio-succinic acid plant located in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada.
  • EcoSynthetix - applies green chemistry to transform renewable resources into high-performance biobased products. EcoSphere® is a biopolymer derived from the fundamental re-engineering of renewable resources ("new" carbon) into biopolymer nanoparticles.
  • Lorama Inc. - specializes in coatings derived from corn starch. The company has successfully developed polysaccharide resin technologies from renewable agricultural materials into a wide range of paint, ink and coatings formulations in six continents and more than 80 countries.
  • Plantform Corporation - uses novel, plant-based technology to produce therapeutic antibody drugs at very low cost. The Guelph-based company's first product will be a biosimilar (generic) version of the breast cancer drug Herceptin.
  • Ingredion - is a principal producer and supplier of corn refined products, high-quality food ingredients and industrial additives.

More about Ontario's Bio Advantage:

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Author: OMAFRA Staff
Creation Date: 9 August 2011
Last Reviewed: 15 March 2016