Bioindustrial Innovation Canada – Sarnia biochem cluster

BIC’s  goal from the outset was to position the Sarnia-Lambton region as a world-scale Hybrid Chemistry Cluster.

The first step was to establish a premier accelerator facility at the Sarnia-Lambton Campus of the Western University Research Park. This formed the nucleus of what would become a benchmark for future development of bioindustrial clusters across Canada.

The Sarnia-Lambton Economic Partnership played a key role in establishing the research park SLEP and OCVCI (Ontario Chemistry Value Chain Initiative) were drivers in bringing local government, industry, labor and the academic community onside to position Sarnia for the future.

Funding came through the partnership with OCVCI, SLEP and Western University applying for a CECR (Centre of Excellence for Commercialization and Research) grant from NSERC. $15 million was granted in 2008 to form BIC and a Sustainable Chemistry Alliance (SCA) investment fund. The BIC project at the research park was a go.

We also focused on attracting green and sustainable businesses to two bioindustrial parks – located in the heart of the region’s petroleum refinery area. Twelve startup companies have received support and investment through our SCA fund, five active in Sarnia.

The BIC accelerator now houses the pilot and demonstration-scale operations of three innovative companies – Woodland Biofuels, KMX Corporation and GreenCore Composites.

Bioamber Inc. is now building its full-scale plant for succinic acid in the Bioindustrial Park (Lanxess) and S4CO2 is building its algae production facilities for high value chemicals in the Bluewater Industrial Park (TransAlta).

The cluster also includes the largest ethanol facility in Canada (Suncor), the largest solar farm in North America (Enbridge) and a greenhouse using CO2 and heat sourced from a nearby fertilizer production company (CF Industries).

Today, Bioindustrial Innovation Canada continuously builds awareness and develops global contacts by participating at conferences, seminars and trade shows around the world. We utilize all the traditional marketing tools – website, newsletter, emarketing and advertising – to spread the word not only about BIC but also about the Sarnia Cluster and Canada’s bioeconomy. Building a strong network of partners and champions has been instrumental in helping BIC achieve its goal.

BIC benefits from a strong industry-based Board and the leadership experience of its management team: Executive Director Dr. Murray McLaughlin and Director Commercialization, James Lee.

Visitors are coming from around the world – Brazil, U.S, UK, Netherlands, France, Germany, Malaysia and other countries – to learn how and why Sarnia is succeeding as a Hybrid Chemistry Cluster, integrating green and sustainable chemistry with the traditional petroleum industries that have been in Sarnia for over 70 years.

It is early days for metrics but we do see reduction of CO2 and jobs being created in the sector to complement the stable petroleum industry jobs. There is also a strong connection to the farming community for biomass and use of their underutilized straw and corn stover. Lambton County is the centre of the Southern Ontario Agriculture community. Lambton College is also a key partner in the cluster- developing courses for green technologies and carrying out training and research to support the new industries,

This is a true cluster for biobased chemistry and its early success is building momentum for growth. The community and its people have demonstrated their belief that this is the right path for the future.