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Projects focus on novel bioproducts and disruptive technologies that use Alberta biomass

July 27, 2016 - Alberta Innovates Bio Solutions (AI Bio) has approved nearly $13 million in funding for 61 projects by researchers and companies. The grants are for the development of new industrial bioproducts or technologies using Alberta agriculture and forestry byproducts or other biomass.

The funding is provided under the Alberta Bio Future research and innovation program, the province's flagship bioindustrial initiative. It is aimed at diversifying and strengthening the provincial economy by adding value to Alberta's renewable resources.  

In addition to working toward reducing reliance on fossil fuel exports, there is another major benefit – bioproducts and bioindustrial technologies have the potential to partially or fully replace petroleum-based products and energy sources, thereby potentially lowering GHG emissions and reducing the carbon footprint.

"The economy of the next 30 years is going to be very different than the economy of the past 30 years, and Alberta's innovators are leading the way in finding solutions to future challenges and capitalizing on future opportunities," says Alberta's economic development and trade minister, Deron Bilous. "Using renewable materials in fascinating new ways, they are helping to diversify our economy and keep our province competitive."

The approved projects span the research and innovation continuum from early applied research to commercialization. In addition to AI Bio funding, 25 projects also have industry funding.

"The projects were carefully chosen in a rigorous, competitive process, based on criteria designed to maximize public benefit and advance the bioindustrial sector in Alberta," says Steve Price, CEO of AI Bio.  "Alberta is blessed with abundant biomass in our forests and crops, advanced infrastructure and universities, and highly qualified personnel in our academic community and bioindustrial sector. AI Bio works as a catalyst to bring these together to accelerate growth in an area with great potential."

The researchers and companies carrying out the projects are using a variety of biomass types to develop or produce advanced biomaterials, biofuels, biochemicals or biocomposites for a broad range of applications. Examples include biofuels for transport and bioproducts that can be used in the energy, construction, forestry or manufacturing sectors.

Numerous projects involve cellulose nanocrystals (CNC) for construction, manufacturing or medical applications. Alberta has one of only a number of facilities in the world capable of producing high-quality CNC, a high-performing, advanced biomaterial derived from cellulose (a compound in plants). The CNC research and innovation pilot plant is located at Alberta Innovates Technology Futures in Edmonton.