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Sarnia’s burgeoning bio-chemical industry welcomes new cash

Published on

Pam Wright

A $3-million government infusion is helping Sarnia’s growing bio-chemical industry continue to build on its momentum.

The funding from the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation will be spent supporting a “hub” for the first hybrid chemistry cluster in Canada.

Murray McLaughlin, executive director of Sarnia-based Bioindustrial Innovation Canada, said the stimulus could help create 400 high value jobs and raise Ontario’s profile as a leader in biotech.

“We’re doing a good job,” McLaughlin said, adding the investment comes at a welcome time.

The money, over four years, won’t be spent on building infrastructure. Instead, it will be used to continue monetizing ideas by nurturing them from infancy to commercialization, McLaughlin said.

Another plan is to take BIC’s knowledge on the road and share it globally, he added.

The global “green” chemical industry is predicted to grow to $100 billion by 2020.

The seeds for Sarnia’s biotechnology industry were planted in 2003 when Lambton County purchased the former Dow Building on Modeland Road and the Western Ontario Research Park was established.

That led to the establishment of an accelerator facility — including anchor BioAmber — which created about 70 high-end jobs.

The city is now home to the world’s largest bio-succinic acid plant. Instead of oil, it uses leftovers from corn stocks to create a “building block” acid used widely in manufacturing.

Today the Accelerator houses pilot and demonstration-scale operations of other innovative companies, including Woodland Biofuels, GreenCore Composites and KmX Corporation.

George Mallay, executive director of the Sarnia-Lambton Economic Partnership Executive, said the $3 million is a welcome boost.

“I think it’s a critical investment to enable us to leverage BIC’s resources and expertise,” he said.

Sarnia-Lambton is also in the running for a second, larger BioAmber plant.

 

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