This is especially true as it pertains to clean technologies, which are some of Canada’s best tools for embracing the bioeconomy.

Many groups — government, academia, the financial sector — contribute in some way to a technology’s development. Some incubate. Some provide business guidance. Some help demonstrate technology at work. But with the rate of failure being what it is, it’s time to rethink how technologies go from lab to market. It’s time to build partnerships and create a culture of enthusiasm for new tools and technologies — part of an easier path to market. And especially in the case of clean technologies, that’s an idea that could profoundly impact Canada’s economy: recent numbers peg Canada’s potential piece of the global cleantech market as high as $50 billion per year by 2022. With an opportunity like that on the table, it’s time we put in the effort to make sure we get it right.

The transformative potential of the bioeconomy

Let’s first look at the transformative potential of technological innovation in the bioeconomy. It’s literally the ability to transform waste into low-cost clean energy and alternative, value-added products. It’s figuratively the ability to reshape and revitalize local and regional economies, as Ontario has seen happen in the city of Sarnia.

"Achieving this nimbleness requires us to develop a culture of innovation and openness to change."

Sarnia was once a petrochemical hub, but shifting economic tides eroded away much of its traditional industry. Yet the city’s access to feedstocks and proximity to southern Ontario’s vast agricultural land have recently attracted bioentrepreneurs to set up shop there. One such enterprise, BioAmber, is building North America’s first bio-succinic acid plant in Sarnia — a $135 million facility that will provide jobs and economic growth in Sarnia and the surrounding region.

To support more BioAmbers and create more of the kind of economic diversification Sarnia has experienced, we need a flexible, nimble innovation infrastructure that can shepherd clean technologies through the complex, often costly development and demonstration process that leads to market.

Achieving this nimbleness requires us to develop a culture of innovation and openness to change, and the willingness to take strategic risks on clean technologies in recognition of the rewards those risks can bring. It also requires greater collaboration by different players involved in the innovation process.

The culture of innovation we are dedicated to creating requires industry and government leaders and investors to work together to commercialize promising innovations, driving the bioeconomy forward and pushing the boundaries of what technology can do — for us as a country, and for the world as a whole. The global market is hungry for cleantech solutions. We must ensure they make it there.