of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Strategic Research Themes - Priorities
for 2008-2012 OMAFRA-University of Guelph Partnership:
- Industrial Uses
Table of Contents
Description and Scope of this Theme
Content Components of the Theme
"Mapping" the Bioeconomy-Industrial Uses Theme
Context and Background for this Theme
Context and Background
2.5 Issues and
2.6 Enabling Components
of the Theme
and Linkages with the Theme
Areas and Priorities for this Theme
Description of Research Areas
of Critical Success Factors
5.0 Other Related
Considerations and Recommendations
1.0 Description and Scope
of this Theme
1.1 Theme Description
refers to the exchange of products manufactured --- in whole or in part --- from
renewable biomass resources. In this sense, the bioeconomy is an integral part
of the larger economy. While renewable biomass resources could come from agricultural,
forestry or marine sources, the focus of this theme is that portion of the bioeconomy
which is or could be generated from agricultural biomass. "Bioeconomy"
implies that food/feed and non-food/feed biomass could be the foundation for value-added
activity in one or more markets, and could be part of competitive growth and prosperity
strategies in a given region. Especially in the near term and perhaps for the
foreseeable future, bioproducts are likely to be manufactured from blends of biomass
and conventional materials. As a result, biomass and conventional feedstocks are
now and will continue to be part of the same material chain. To varying degrees,
biomass will be substituted into material chains in place of materials currently
derived from fossil fuels, and will be used to manufacture products with real
'Industrial Uses' implies the transformation
of biological materials into feedstocks for use in manufacturing or in energy
systems. As a result, this theme requires consideration of the primary and secondary
processing technologies by which biomass is transformed; these technologies may
utilize biological, chemical, mechanical, thermal or other conversion processes.
"Industrial uses" also implies the need to consider proximity of agriculturally-derived
biomass to industrial users, the existence of appropriate transportation and storage
infrastructure, and the relative ease or difficulty in substituting a particular
bioproduct for a synthetic competitor (often made with fossil fuels) in industrial
The Bioeconomy-Industrial Uses theme encompasses
three major areas of focus, all of which involve use of agriculturally-derived
biomass to produce some type of bioproduct. The three major product categories
considered here are:
Biomaterials - includes
bioplastics, biobased blends, natural fibre composites, biobased nanocomposites,
biofoams, biorubber, biobased paints and coatings, bioadhesives, and bioinks,
and natural fibres, as well as the resulting end products (e.g. textiles, carpets,
mats), rigid components (e.g. tiles, panels, beams and posts, tubes/pipes, casings,
or other formed products), or granulated products (e.g. chips, pellets, dust).
Biochemicals - industrial chemicals (e.g. cleaners, lubricants,
sealants, solvents, ), intermediate biochemicals (e.g. ethylene), chemical inputs/feedstocks
for production of other products (e.g. oils, phenols, resins) or biotech products
where at least part of the product is a biological organism or component (e.g.
enzymes, molecular probes, microbes, yeast, bacteria).
- energy feedstocks (e.g. ethanol, methanol, butanol, biodiesel, bio-oil, biogas,
pellets, hog fuel) as well as the end products (e.g. electricity, thermal energy).
and functional foods are excluded: Biomaterials and biochemicals also
have many applications in health care, where their use requires demonstrated compatibility
with direct use in or on the human body. Exploration of this theme excludes nutraceuticals
and functional foods which are considered under the Food for Health theme. However
biopharmaceuticals and cosmetics are considered in the Bioeconomy-Industrial Uses
Feedstocks are defined as: biomass intended
for use in and subjected to some form of processing to prepare the biomass for
use in manufacturing or energy generation processes. Residuals from conventional
agricultural crops (including food crops) are often referred to as 'waste' and
are considered a potential source of biomass for bioproducts. Other feedstocks
could be bioenergy co-product streams such as low or negative value byproducts
from lingo-cellulosic biofuel industries (also from paper and pulp industries),
crude glycerol from emerging biodiesel industries, Distillers' Dried Grains with
solubles (DDGS) from corn ethanol industries, soy meal and canola meal (from soy/canola
oil industries), CO2, food processing waste streams, and energy crops like hemp
or miscanthus. Exploration of this theme specifically includes these feedstock
sources as well as 'waste' from such non-agricultural sources as municipal solid
waste streams. Blending these materials with agricultural feedstocks may be the
most cost-competitive approach to manufacturing bioproducts.
Flexibility: OMAFRA allows some definitional flexibility to encourage
a more open innovation system (e.g. provide R&D flexibility to look at synergies
between industrial and food/fuel uses --- as an example, the use of CO2 from ethanol
production as growth enhancer in greenhouses or potential feedstock for polycarbonate
plastics. Also allow inclusion of biopharmaceutical, nutraceuticals, functional
food and cosmetic R&D if it can enhance economics of an existing biorefinery
(e.g. ethanol, biodiesel, biochemical facility)
The Concept of Sustainability:
There is significant potential (environmental) sustainability benefits in bioproducts
--- linked to renewability of feedstocks, post-farm gate activity, conversion,
product use and disposal, and the effects of these activities. Generation of strong
comparative data is needed to address green standards of industrial bioproducts
and build public confidence. However, while beneficial, these benefits should
not be automatically assumed to be part of the definition of bioproducts.
Content Components of the Theme
Choices: The following are strategic choices as key components of moving
forward in the Bioeconomy-Industrial Uses theme area:
of a hybrid economy --- based on the co-existence of products of bio and non-bio
origins, as well as products which are themselves a blend of bio and non-bio feedstocks.
A focus on higher value-added products, which are expected to be niche markets
with significant customer value. The Panel concluded that Ontario's agricultural
sector is more likely to be competitive in these markets than in commodity markets.
The concept of total utilization of feedstocks and residuals --- a residual
from one process may be an input or feedstock to another process. The ultimate
objective must be total utilization of biomass, with no 'waste'. This imparts
both business/commercial and environmental benefit.
A value chain
perspective --- adoption of a feedstock-to-product perspective against which research
investments would be evaluated.
Pursue Ontario's advantage and
opportunities for entering into ethnic, niche and identity preserved markets
Confirm that the best global competitive strategy is to build on excellence
and corporate partners, preserve identity, and start with the end-use consumer
Existing research capacity in both public
institutions and private industry. Centres of Excellence, upon which industry
as well as academe may draw, are also key components of infrastructure.
Agricultural productive capacity,
including expanded use of marginal lands (lands other than Classes one or two).
Networking and relationship-development infrastructure, especially across sectors
1.3 "Mapping" The Bioeconomy-Industrial
Given of the complex, non-linear nature
of the components of the "Bioeconomy-Industrial Uses" theme, mapping
the "system" is also a very complex process. A very simple version of
the system is presented below in Figure 1.
A more productive approach
would be to map individual opportunities or products; this should be done at the
early stage of each opportunity exploration with the objective of assessing prospects
for successful outcomes and the system components required for that particular
opportunity, as well as identifying assets which could be brought to bear on the
opportunity and barriers which must be removed or circumvented (if possible).
equivalent of Figure 1.
2.0 Context and
Background for this Theme
OMAFRA requires integration
of bio-economy theme priorities with priorities from the other 7 themes into a
multi-theme research program with an approximately five year time horizon.
Until now, research projects devoted to the Bioeconomy-Industrial Uses theme
have not been a major part of OMAFRA's research programs. As a result, the context
is well described for more intensive pursuit of these opportunities in future
and underscores the need for OMAFRA to modify existing programs and processes
to incorporate considerations and characteristics associated with this theme.
2.2 Key Assumptions
to the Ontario economy will continue. Energy costs are expected to remain high
for the foreseeable future. Market globalization will continue.
Although some commodity markets may show ongoing strength (e.g. grains), Ontario
will have increasing difficulty in competing in most low value-add markets. As
a result, a shift to products with high-value added will be the most likely route
to success for Ontario.
Ontario has substantial agricultural resources
which continue to be available for the production of a diverse set of products
- including food, feed, and bioproducts.Climate remains a largely uncontrollable
factor in the production cycle but it constrains rather than eliminates opportunity.
Agricultural production in Ontario will continue to grow and
related issues such as urban encroachment, environmental impacts of agricultural
operations, and proximity of production and processing facilities to markets will
require ongoing attention. Benefit to Ontario's agricultural sector should be
one of - but not the only - criteria associated with research in this theme area.
economy is undergoing significant change - in the agricultural sector and well
beyond it. The entire value chain (from feedstock to finished product) is becoming
more tightly integrated, requiring closer collaboration between the agricultural
sector, researchers and innovators working in multiple sectors, and receptor capacity.
Requirements for integration and collaboration must be built into OMAFRA's research
programs supporting this theme.
The public policy environment
for Ontario bioproducts will become more complex as other jurisdictions advocate
and adopt standards for "green-ness", and the potential benefits - as
well as outstanding issues - associated with bioproducts continue to attract attention.
OMAFRA can extract maximum value
from the bioeconomy if it capitalizes on these opportunities:
value-add products, often associated with niche markets, rather than low value-add
global commodity markets in which Ontario has increasing difficulty in competing.
Local/domestic markets as well as international ones (e.g. energy products
which can be used within the province to displace out-of-jurisdiction energy products).
In the near-term, bioproducts which blend conventional and bio-based inputs,
especially when those bio-based inputs come from residual or 'waste' streams associated
with agriculture, southern woodlots, municipal solid waste or fibre-intensive
Over the longer term, bioproducts in any of the
theme subcategories (biomaterials, biochemicals, bioenergy) which can address
a market need in a cost-competitive way based on a competitive advantage for Ontario,
and offer benefits to the province's agricultural sector.
potential of small and medium-sized enterprise (SMEs) as well as large industry
and research institutions.
Becoming a world leader in creating
a public policy environment that is supportive of bioproduct development and introduction
without disregarding the need for accountability in the use of public funds, protection
of health and safety, and the need for environmental protection/improvement.
Issues and Barriers
of the Bioeconomy Must Be Validated: The emerging bioeconomy, which is
simply a part of the larger economy, has potential to contribute to the Province's
prosperity but this potential has not been validated. Research which helps to
scope the arenas in which Ontario has the most opportunity would be advisable
as guidance to annual research funding decisions.
Enabling Components Still Required: Some - but not all - of the
foundations are in place to pursue the potential of the bioeconomy. The most important
components which need to be put in place are 1) organizational structures and
processes which will accelerate Ontario's pursuit of opportunity and 2) linkage
development both within and outside government to enable stakeholders to increase
the Return on Investment (ROI) from research funding and capture economic opportunity.
New Concepts Must Be Introduced: Successful pursuit
of opportunity in the bioeconomy requires that new concepts make their way into
research, development, commercialization and public policy associated with the
bioeconomy. First and foremost is the concept of a value chain where all efforts
are directed toward outcomes that will deliver economic benefit to the province
and its agricultural sector. Other key concepts are interdisciplinarity in research,
total utilization in processing and product development, and life cycle analysis
as a tool for assessing environmental benefit.
Leadership Needed: OMAFRA should continue to provide leadership in articulating
and stimulating agriculture's role in the bioeconomy but this must unfold in partnership
with other Ministries, institutions and industry (both large and small).
2.6 Enabling Components of the Theme
Many of the
research foundations of a bioproduct economy are already in place (e.g. research
infrastructure and human capital). However to keep competitive on a global scale,
Ontario will need to continue to invest in both basic and applied bioproducts
research; by definition, research investments in this theme are more likely to
be concentrated in applied areas than basic science.
The new(er) foundational
Linkages which deliver the value add aspect of
bioproducts from agricultural biomass. (e.g. link with various food/feed/crop/chemical
processors and capture the various streams (primary and residual) for use in products
with high value-add; links between crop improvement, harvesting, bioproduct processing,
modification of biomass, refining residues, as well as characterization and analysis
of the bioproducts (bioenergy, biochemicals and biomaterials) from the molecular
to macroscopic scale.
Public policy and regulatory research which
supports a successful bioeconomy holds the opportunity for Ontario to be a leader
(as California is). One element of this could be an understanding of the impacts
of the bioproducts sector on other sectors.
to promote technology transfer and to create market pull. Examples could be procurement
policy (Province should buy what is made/ manufactured here.) or changes to crop
insurance and advance payment programs for producers.
Interdependencies and Linkages with the Theme
integration of multiple stakeholders in important efforts to advance the bioeconomy,
and building linkages to enable researchers to better understand and incorporate
industrial/market considerations in their work. The specific types of linkages
and dependencies identified were:
Linkages to Industry/Manufacturing:
Industrial and manufacturing linkages are key (to expedite bioproduct adoption
and commercialization); this will require consideration of industry standards
(quality assurance) and regulatory requirements. The energy/bioenergy sector was
identified as a sector with which linkage development is especially important.
Other sectors noted were forest product industry (pulp and paper industry), the
chemical industry, and other manufacturing industries (auto parts, packaging,
furniture and building products).
Linkages to Other Ministries/Research
Institutions: Moving from being an OMAFRA to OMAFRA-led initiative
science and technology initiative for the province; this implies that linkages
with other Ministries with science and technology interests and research institutions
would be key.
Linkages which are Geographic/Transportation-Focused:
Linkages between processing/manufacturing/transport and agricultural (production)
sectors due to sensitivity of economics to proximity/distance from field/forest
to processing/manufacturing sites.
Linkages to International
Arenas: Take the theme in this research and industrial highly qualified
personnel (HQP) to the global stage; engaging with decision-makers in industry
in other jurisdictions is an important linkage for this theme.
Linkages: with fields such as environmental research (e.g. on the consequences
of deployment of new instead of traditional crops.
Areas and Priorities for this Theme
Description of Research Areas
priority research areas are identified: feedstock-related research, processing
technologies research, bioproduct development research, and policy research.
A. Feedstock-Related Research is defined as research to create,
unique, sustainable, and/or more robust bio-based/organic feedstocks with the
aim of long-term market viability. This includes research on organic waste streams
and research into delivery and farm gate processing, storage, and transportation.
This is the research area in which OMAFRA - UofG has the greatest potential to
contribute in the provincial context.
Examples of research that might be
considered under this research area include but are not limited to:
Utilization of "waste" streams as value-added bioproducts
Development of new or improved crops beyond traditional or existing commodity
Feedstock development, quality development, storage and
production optimization of ligno-cellulosic biomass on marginal land, with reduced
water and fertilizer use
Biotechnology for improved agronomics,
improved quality of raw materials for industrial uses
feedstocks for use as combustible (or liquefiable) energy source (e.g. higher
biomass yield per acre, increased drought and pest tolerance, increased transportation
B. Processing Technologies Research is defined
as research into methods and processes for converting/refining feedstocks to enable
cost-competitive products for a variety of industrial uses. This type of research
should work towards an integrated approach. Processing technologies which use
multiple/combined feedstocks should be favoured. The ultimate outcome of this
type of research is increased value, either of a single component, or across products.
This type of research includes development of processing technologies that are
scalable to meet local needs as well as the needs of larger facilities.
particularly needs outcomes of research focused on the agri-technology side of
Examples of research that might be considered
under this research area include but are not limited to:
thermal, chemical and/or mechanical processing of the optimized plant biomass
to yield bioproducts
"omics" research to enhance input/output
traits for desired product streams encompassing total use (crops, microbial);
this could span all areas of bioenergy, biofibre/biocomposites, or biochemicals
Catalytic combustion/conversion of biomass
existing chemical production (e.g. understanding of petroleum processes and opportunities)
Nanotechnology-based approaches for purification and aptamers (binding molecules)
Fractionation of processed food/feed/specialty crops to capture very high value
co-products which remain after processing (biochemicals) and conversion technologies
have been utilized
Total utilization and integrated production
of food /feed/ specialty crops and high value/added value co-products
Bioproduct Development Research is defined as research undertaken with
the objective of incorporating the science (if successful) into particular product
applications. The product may be entirely bio-based, an ingredient substitution,
or biomass used in combination with fossil fuels. The bioproduct must have potential
value to agriculture in Ontario. This includes products made from southern Ontario
woodlots but not boreal forests; forest products/residuals may be a component
or part of a blend but a product which is 100 per cent from the boreal forest
is not included in this definition of Bioproduct Development Research.
OMAFRA would benefit from research as a result of collaborations with other Ministries
and universities in Ontario which are recognized leaders in research under this
Examples of research that might be considered under this research
area include but are not limited to:
Value added bioproducts (plastics,
complex chemicals, high-end bio-materials, enzymes, enabling bio-technology such
as microbial tools/products for bio-remediation and to drive bioprocesses)
Next generation bio-fuels - bio-diesel, higher-chain alcohols (less hydroscopic
and easier to separate from water than ethanol), enhanced biofuel feedstocks with
less lignin content (allows easier enzymatic digestion into sugars); bioalcohol
Safer biochemicals from corn, soybeans,
other crops, and agricultural residue streams, as substitutes for petrochemicals
High performance micro-fibres, nano-fibres and carbon fibres for light- weight,
structural composite applications
Bio-fillers, composite reinforcement
fibres, and biochemicals from low cost agricultural residues and biofuel co-products
D. Policy Research is defined as research on the
short and long term implications of government policies including policies that
are perceived to be disincentives to the competitiveness of the bioeconomy. The
Bioeconomy-Industrial Uses theme includes micro-scale policy (e.g. regulatory
definitions of types of biomass, consumer perceptions of bioproducts) but not
macro-scale policy (e.g. value of Canadian dollar, international trade agreements).
Examples of research that might be considered under this research area
include but are not limited to:
Economic research on bioproducts
to drive policy decisions. A particular high-priority area of policy research
would be identification and removal of any barriers to the full utilization concept.
Research into sustainability and life cycle impacts, which can be integrated
into planning stages of research projects. This research would consider the short
and long-term implications of bioproduct development with a view to competitiveness.
Identification of incentives and disincentives for new/improved crops; design
of policies and programs to remove/reduce disincentives and increase the impact
of incentives (done well, this could be a competitive advantage for Ontario).
that proposals which include proof-of-concept research directed to agriculture
should be explicitly included as eligible projects. Given that there are other
research funds (e.g. NSERC) for basic research, the emphasis in research proposals
is expected to be on applied or adaptive issues.
of Critical Success Factors
to Shape Organizational Structures and Responses, which include:
Purposeful collaborations --- the ability to partner across institutions
(scientific disciplines, universities, government departments, and industry sectors)
to achieve synergies and convergence of knowledge, expertise and technologies
Flexibility in program design and delivery --- integrative programs that encourage
interdisciplinary research (e.g. Bioproducts Research funding, The Sustainable
Bioeconomy Centre at Queen's University)
being driven by both applied (industry-driven) and strategic (government policy-driven)
goals, and being targeted to larger multidisciplinary research projects
The ability to create critical mass and investment in a priority research area
to ensure success and global leadership
Research funding processes:
less cumbersome funding models and application processes, increased funding levels
and time-spans. There is also an opportunity to build in clearly defined quantitative
milestones in projects (especially important for multi-year projects)
Timely decision-making on funding decisions to ensure that research can be
undertaken in a timeframe in keeping with the global competitive environment
Continuity among decision-makers: The bioeconomy is a very knowledge intensive
field. OMAFRA needs to provide more continuity in bioproduct specialists and senior
management. After someone gets up to speed, the ministry rotates them through
other positions and the process of getting someone else up to speed starts all
Ability to Adapt Key Parts of the Value Chain:
Changing transportation modes: (e.g. encourage movement from road transportation
to rail and water, or multi-modal systems)
Modified Use of Production
and Processing Environments --- from redeployment of 'marginal' lands to new/improved
crops, and use of greenhouses for feedstock optimization studies to smaller-scale
technologies used close to source for primary processing (e.g. initial component
Application of integrative concepts
in processing technology and commercial settings: such as 1) the hybrid economy
concept, 2) total utilization and biorefinery concepts 3) technology convergence
4) interdisciplinary research and development and 5) Cradle to Cradle and Reuse,
Reduce and Recycle product development
Ability to Deliver
Highly Qualified Personnel (HQP):
To support and to meet the requirements
of the rapidly growing bioeconomy-based industrialization globally, human capital
with adequate knowledge and training must be created. Special emphasis should
be given in developing new graduate level educational program in bioproducts and
engineering themes. Coordinated federal-provincial action could deliver this.
However, the Panel believes that primary responsibility for ensuring that the
Province's HQP needs are met rests with the Ministry of Training, Colleges and
University and the Ministry of Research and Innovation. OMAFRA should be a contributor
to the program development processes of those ministries.
to Develop and Implement Supportive Policy:
While demonstrating accountability
for public investment in agricultural research, encourage appropriate levels of
R&D and innovation investment in bioproducts, adopt a life cycle perspective
across all policy areas, introduce procurement policies which support domestically-produced
bioproducts, encourage investment incentives into bioproducts, and introduce regulations
which support production, manufacturing and commercialization of Ontario bioproducts.
Another important element of the policy environment is balancing IP protection
while adding to the pool of public knowledge and supporting public education and
outreach. The Panel believes that Ontario has an opportunity to be a leader (like
California) on the policy and regulatory aspects of a successful bioeconomy.
Ability to Target Collaborators and Customers:
to work with/engage innovative large firms while increasing emphasis on stimulating
growth of small and medium-sized enterprise (SMEs) which can serve as pilot sites
for new feedstocks, processes and products, are often more nimble in their competitive
response than larger enterprise, and may be more directly linked to local/domestic
5.0 Other Related Considerations and Recommendations
Create momentum behind initiatives OMAFRA is funding.
Build networks and work collaboratively.
Review the research
priorities from other themes and identify cross-cutting research priorities (e.g.
a research priority which addresses a need in the food or feed sector but could
also inform industrial uses of agricultural biomass). Themes such as production
systems, value chain and rural policy are likely to have areas of overlapping
interest. Note that of the eight themes mentioned in the Challenge Paper, the
first five are complementary.
Create forums for issues beyond
research funding (e.g. food versus fuel, food versus bioproducts); the private
sector has the same concerns. Researchers need to be engaged in these discussions
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