Ontario's Bio Advantage Sector Profile

Spotlight on Biomaterials

Biomaterials are processed or engineered products obtained partially or fully from renewable biobased resources, including:

  • natural fibre composites
  • bioplastics
  • biorubbers
  • biofoams
  • bioadhesives
  • bioinks
  • biobased paints and coatings.

Ontario's Biomaterials Advantage

Market demand and access to major markets
  • The North American market for bioplastics is estimated to be $10 billion
  • Well established distribution channels/transportation networks
  • Located within a day's drive of the largest markets in North America.
  • Ontario is a leading North American jurisdiction for the manufacturing of automotive parts - a key downstream market for biomaterials.
Extensive manufacturing capacity
  • Ontario is home to more than 2,000 plastics manufactures and suppliers. In 2013, the annual sales of plastics and rubber products manufactured in Ontario topped $12.8 billion
  • Large manufacturing base with advanced expertise to transition to biobased inputs.
Highly skilled workforce
  • More than 46,000 people are working in Ontario's plastics industry - with a well-established value chain for plastics manufacturers in resins, molds, machinery, equipment and processors.
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
  • Availability of biobased feedstocks from agriculture and forest based products and byproducts.

Biomaterials and the Automotive Industry

Biomaterials are attracting strong interest in the Ontario automotive industry. Research and development underway at Ontario institutions includes:

  • lightweight materials
  • strength-enhanced materials
  • materials with enhanced acoustic insulation and vibration control
  • green manufacturing processes.

The Ontario Biocar initiative (2006-2011), a multi-university project involving scientists at the universities of Guelph, Toronto, Waterloo and Windsor, in collaboration with the industry partner Ford Motor Company, developed the world's first wheat and plastic composite car component, first used in 2010 Ford Flex models - a significant success story for Ontario's bio-based material research to commercialization in the automotive industry.

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.

Ontario Biomaterials "A Team"

The Ontario Biomaterials "A team" assembled by Ontario Agri-Food Technologies and the Ontario Centres of Excellence is a consortium of ten internationally recognized scientists from seven Ontario universities: University of Guelph, Queen's University, University of Windsor, McMaster University, University of Waterloo, University of Toronto and, Trent University. The "A-team", each with unique skills, expertise and world-class equipment in the development, processing and optimization of biomaterials, aim to collaborate to help Canadian companies bring their innovative bioproducts to market faster.

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

The BDDC is available to companies, entrepreneurs, research organizations as a partner and ally in biomaterials projects and products. Research is focused on the bioeconomy related to biobased materials, biofuels and biorefinery, including:

  • Bioplastics, biobased polymers, biocomposites and natural fibres
  • Sustainable packaging
  • Biobased nanocomposites and nanoblends
  • Lignin reinforced thermoplastics and thermosetting polymers composites
  • Biobased materials from the co-products of biofuel industries
  • Biomass and biomaterials sustainability; and recyclability, durability and biodegradability studies.

Centre for BioComposites and Biomaterials Processing, University of Toronto

Research is focused on:

  • Engineered wood and natural fibre composite materials
  • Conversion of agriculture fibre crops for composite manufacturing, nano­biocomposites and advanced wood composites
  • Use of the biobased composites in building construction, automotive interior and exterior parts, architectural parts and many performance consumer and sports goods applications.

Biomaterials Research Program, Trent University

  • Multidisciplinary approach to the development of new and functional, environmentally-responsible materials from renewable, sustainable agricultural feedstock
  • Research focus on using vegetable oils to make functional polymers, lubricants, greases, waxes and nano-matrices
  • Aim to deliver bioactive compounds and fertilizers, and crystallized networks of lipids, for use as healthy food materials.

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

  • Provincial initiative to transform Northern Ontario forest products industry
  • Partnering with other organizations to direct research results and innovative business opportunities into operational reality.

Biomaterial Industry Success

The following are examples of some Ontario companies that use biobased products in their manufacturing process and/or prepare biobased materials.

GreenCore Composites - a spin-off company from the University of Toronto to commercialize natural-fibre composites technology. The company's NCellTM natural fibre reinforced composites are used in the manufacture of automotive, furniture, toys, consumer and other industrial products.

Enviroshake - manufacturer of environmentally-friendly, cedar-like composite shake roof shingles. Enviroshake shingles are an alternative to asphalt, cedar, pine, metal (steel/ aluminum) and other premium roofing products. Made from 95 per cent recycled materials, the Enviroshake can be recycled (again) into new shakes.

Woodbridge Group - global leader in the development and production of polyurethane technologies and products for automotive applications. The company is researching and commercializing Bio-Foam, a renewable soy-based polyol. Soy polyols, a key ingredient in polyurethane material, is used in automotive seats and interior pieces.

Competitive Green Technologies - Competitive Green Technologies commercializes green technologies and has an exclusive license from the University of Guelph using their recently developed, proprietary compounding technology, which enables the manufacture of bio­composite resins. These resins are made by compounding non-food and non-forest crops of biomass, such as miscanthus, and post-industrial agricultural plastics and are used to manufacture commercial products such as eco flower pots and bio-bins. These products are marketed across North America at major retail stores, such as the Home Hardware, Home Depot, Canadian Tire and Kroger.

More about Ontario's Bio Advantage:

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