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Ottawa investing another $15 million in biotech industry

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Troy Shantz

Sarnia-based Bioindustrial Innovation Canada (BIC) is getting $15 million in federal funds to expand, a move Ottawa says will create 600 green jobs in Ontario.

“The future of biotech is actually in Sarnia,” federal Economic Development Minister Mélanie Joly told business and political leaders at the Western Sarnia-Lambton Research Park last week.

“(Sarnia-Lambton) is a region that is renowned for its innovation, renowned for its expertise.”

BIC is a non-profit business accelerator that invests in clean and sustainable tech start-ups. It is credited, since 2008, with creating 3,000 jobs and funding 17 companies locally including Origin Materials, Ainsworth Energy, and KMX Membrane Technologies.

BIC project manager Michael Faba said the new funding will help companies from early start-up through to construction and commercial demonstration.

Though short on specifics, officials said the money will generate 600 new jobs and sustain another 100 existing jobs at 150 partner companies.

“There certainly will be a significant impact to job generation here locally,” Faba said.

The federal cash joins $37 million BIC has from private investors, he added.

The Feb. 13 event was also used to officially announce creation of an Ontario Bioindustrial Innovation Network and development of a second cluster of bio-based companies in Brockville, Ont.

Minister Joly, who toured several BIC-funded projects at the Research Park, said Sarnia’s petrochemical-based workforce offers the right experience.

“You don’t start a business out of nowhere. You usually go where there is expertise, and bit-by-bit people are interested in investing in Sarnia,” she said.

“We want to be able to attract more investment, make sure that we’re creating these jobs, and that the people that are working right now in Sarnia know that it’s all good… that they’ll have jobs that are linked to their existing skills.”

The Canadian president of Origin Materials, who attended the event, said the company hopes the new funding will allow it to triple its 10 employees at two Sarnia locations.

“This kind of support goes a long way to remove a lot of barriers for commercialization, which I think helps to create more jobs in the long run,” Alex Ward said.

Origin Materials began preparatory work in 2018 on a $31.4-million pioneer plant at 1265 Vidal St. on land currently owned by Arlanxeo Canada.

The company has a patented process that uses wood chips, wheat straw and corn stalks to make a liquid compound used in making plastic bottles and packaging.

 

 

 

 

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