- Recipient: Bioindustrial Innovation Canada
- Region: Sarnia, ON & Brockville, ON
- Total funding allocated: $27 million
Sarnia-based business accelerator Bioindustrial Innovation Canada (BIC) has helped Sarnia's hybrid chemistry cluster progress from its petrochemical roots toward sustainable alternatives, since it was launched in 2008.
In 2015, BIC established the Centre for Commercialization of Sustainable Chemistry Innovation (COMM SCI) with a $12-million contribution from FedDev Ontario. COMM SCI supports businesses across southern Ontario with advice, services and project funding support, advancing commercialization and accelerating new sustainable chemistry products and bio-based innovations.
California-based Origin Materials is an example of a business that BIC helped attract to Sarnia, and grew with BIC's support. In 2017, the company developed and built its oxidation pilot plant at the Western Sarnia-Lambton Research Park. There, the company is piloting technology to create recyclable, plant-based plastic bottles with partners Danone, Nestle and PepsiCo, among other activities. Origin recently announced plans to become the first publicly traded carbon negative materials company on the Nasdaq exchange. The company estimates that its first commercial plant to be built in Sarnia, Ontario, will be completed in 2022 with a larger, full-scale commercial plant expected to be up and running in 2025.
"Our model at BIC has been highly successful resulting in job creation and economic benefits across Canada," said BIC's Executive Director, A.J. (Sandy) Marshall. "BIC continues to remove barriers to commercialization by providing investment, advice and services to business developers of clean, green and sustainable technologies."
In early 2020, FedDev Ontario provided BIC with an additional $15 million to strengthen the hybrid chemistry cluster in Sarnia-Lambton and expand to Eastern Ontario. This second sustainable chemistry cluster centered in Brockville will fill a gap in this region.
Extending its proven COMM SCI model into the St. Lawrence Corridor, BIC launched the Ontario Bioindustrial Innovation Network (OBIN), which provides strategic advice, services and investments to innovative companies in the sustainable chemistry sector, supporting them to commercialize their products and services and to scale up to gain access to regional, national and global markets.
Li-Cycle is one such company supported by BIC. The Toronto-based clean technology company is on a mission to solve the world's problem of a growing number of used lithium-ion batteries and meet the rapidly growing demand for critical battery materials, through its recycling technology. By recycling lithium-ion batteries, waste will be reduced and valuable materials can be repurposed. Through the COMM SCI initiative, Li-Cycle worked with an engineering firm with expertise in lithium, lithium-ion batteries, and hydrometallurgy to validate the scalability and viability of their technology. Following this, BIC provided financial support for Li-Cycle to build out its pilot facilities in Kingston, Ontario. Earlier this year, Li-Cycle announced a significant milestone as they plan to go public in the U.S. and list on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). Li-Cycle was recently featured on the 2021 Narwhal List, as one of Canada's most promising clean technology companies.
"BIC is becoming a recognized leader within Canada's bioeconomy and circular economy. We are thrilled to continue to support clean tech companies through our new program, the Ontario Bioindustrial Innovation Network (OBIN)," said Marshall. "OBIN will enable BIC to continue its work to strengthen the Hybrid Chemistry Cluster in Sarnia-Lambton and to enable the development of a second Sustainable Chemistry Cluster in the Eastern Ontario St. Lawrence Corridor region."
By its completion, the OBIN project will support an anticipated 150 small- and medium-sized businesses and create and maintain up to 700 highly skilled jobs throughout southern Ontario.
BIC's work is having positive impacts on the sustainable chemistry and clean tech sectors across the province, giving companies access to two diverse cluster sites with a wider range of expertise and resources. This means more innovative companies—like Origin Materials and Li-Cycle—are developing products that reduce environmental impacts.
The benefits of this project do not stop locally—as researchers find more sustainable ways to create the products we use in everyday life, southern Ontario will become a leader in clean, green and sustainable chemistry for Canada and share this formula for success with the world.