Forestry: An Ecosystem Of Innovation
Development and Innovation It never ceases to amaze me how much science and technology there is in the forest products industry, involving a wide variety of people working in the sector, known as Canada’s greenest workforce.
From the tree seedlings and harvesting practices in the forest, through to new products and uses of the fibre at the other end, our companies are constantly innovating and improving.
Biology, zoology, botany, and the important study of water and soil all contribute to maintaining the forest ecosystem. As we learn more about the trees and wildlife in our forest ecosystem, the management practices improve every year.
In the mills, extracting maximum value from every log involves complex computer and laser technology. The pulping process requires chemical analysis and engineering. New products and new uses for this renewable resource are being developed every year with the oils and sugars extracted from the fibres able to be used in everything from cosmetics to car parts.
The imaginative use of wood for building materials and the residue from the remaining wood chips is only limited by the ingenuity of our scientists and forest industry entrepreneurs.
“The imaginative use of wood for building materials and the residue from the remaining wood chips is only limited by the ingenuity of our scientists and forest industry entrepreneurs.”
For many years the forest industry has been perceived as an old and dying part of the Canadian economy. This is not true. Science and innovation and a commitment to industry transformation will insure that our sustainably managed forests continue to contribute jobs and economic opportunity for generations to come.
It takes a village
Similar to the forests themselves, nurturing and cultivating innovation requires a complex eco-system with many interdependent parts — each part of the system is important for the success of the whole. The advancements made by scientists and investments made by entrepreneurs are nurtured and supported by government and academic institutions.
Recently, the Canadian government committed to $90.4 million over four more years for the Investments in Forest Industry Transformation (IFIT) program which has already helped Canadian forest product companies develop world-first innovations.
FPInnovations is an important part of that innovation eco-system that brings together government, industry and the academic community, in an innovation hub. Program advisory committees (PACs) are made up of representatives from the science community, industry and government partners. They provide guidance and oversight for the research programs with a particular focus on operational improvement, best practices and technology transfer.
Value in networking
Another important part of the innovation eco-system is FIBRE (Forest Innovation By Research and Education). The purpose of FIBRE is to align and optimize the contribution of university-lead research to Canada’s forest industry innovation system. There are currently eight networks of scientists and an estimated 400 PhD’s, post-grads and masters students currently involved. Graduate students, academic institutions, government and private sector people all contribute talent, effort and entrepreneurial spirit. The innovation eco-system requires all parts working in concert.
Committed to success
The Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC) also works in the Bio-Pathways Partnership Network and the Bio-Economy Network to collaborate with other sectors. One of our core tasks at FPAC is to continue to work with government, our academic partners and our member companies to promote investment in innovation.
Constant improvement in processes, products and performance comes from a robust and interconnected innovation system. Many ideas are tested, nurtured and developed.
As with any eco-system, not all seeds germinate and not all new ideas make it to maturity. But those that do can be game-changers.