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Canada poised to become world leader in next-generation biofuel development

BioFuelNet Canada – made possible by federal NCE program – will bring together industry and academics to research and develop biofuels of the future

Published: 30 May 2012



BioFuelNet Canada – made possible by federal NCE program – will bring together industry and academics to research and develop biofuels of the future


A plane powered by grass? Sounds unlikely, but thanks to a new research network led by Prof. Don Smith from McGill University’s Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, this could one day become a reality.

BioFuelNet Canada is one of three new Centres of Excellence announced today by the Honourable Gary Goodyear, Minister of State for Science and Technology, during an event held at McGill.

“Our government’s Economic Action Plan 2012 focuses on the drivers of growth and job creation—innovation, investment, education, skills and communities,” said the Honourable Gary Goodyear, Minister of State for Science and Technology. “Improving health care, sustaining the environment and managing natural resources are three very important priorities for Canadians and focussing research investments on these areas will build a more sustainable future for all Canadians.”

BioFuelNet Canada will receive close to $25 million from the Networks of Centres of Excellence program (NCE). NCEs are large-scale, academically-led virtual research networks that bring together partners from academia, industry, government and not-for-profit organizations. For more than 20 years, the NCE program has successfully brought together the best minds in many disciplines and sectors to find solutions to critical issues for Canadians, and has leveraged more than $386 million in industry cash and in-kind support.

“Our goal is to develop the knowledge, the tools and the policies so that 25 per cent of the fuel used in Canada will come from advanced biofuels within 10 to 20 years,” explained Prof. Smith, Scientific Director of BioFuelNet Canada. “We are looking at sources for fuel that are as varied as forestry and agricultural residue and fast-growing plants such as switchgrass, as well as those from algae, processed paper waste, sewage and trash.”

With close to 100 researchers from almost 25 institutions across Canada, the network includes most of the researchers who are working in biofuels in the country. They will be divided into four regional platforms (West, Prairie, Central, and East) that will focus on the sources, conversion processes, uses and sustainability practices that are most appropriate for each area. At the same time, by being integrated into a national network, investigators will benefit from the synergy of the shared research process.

"This is a great opportunity for industry and academics in Canada to work together to advance the development of next-generation biofuels, a key component of the energy mix of the future," said Mr. Thierry Vandal, the Interim Chair of the Board of Directors of BioFuelNet Canada and Hydro-Québec’s President and CEO.

“By pooling expertise and working together, members of the network can create a realistic roadmap which will put Canada at the forefront of second-generation biofuel production, while at the same time significantly reducing Canadian greenhouse gas emissions and dependence on fossil fuels,” added Smith. “We are committed to research that will lead to results in the near future. By working with our partners in industry and in government, we should be able to identify and begin to implement best practices and technologies within five years, and also guide policy to move us closer to where we want to be.”

“We are grateful to the government of Canada for the important support provided through the NCE program, and we congratulate Professor Smith’s team for this outstanding recognition of their groundbreaking work,” said Professor Heather Munroe-Blum, McGill’s Principal and Vice-Chancellor. “An exciting example of the synergies that come from great science, BioFuelNet also furthers the development of products and policies for a sustainable future. McGill is proud to be a part of this process.”

For more information about BioFuelNet Canada: www.biofuelnet.ca




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