Last year I was appointed to the government’s Bioeconomy Committee along with MLAs John Yap, John Rustad, Eric Foster and Ron Cantelon. We were given a mandate to determine if an opportunity exists for B.C. to take advantage of the emerging bioeconomy and, if so, recommend what initial steps government should take to maximize this opportunity.
This week the Bioeconomy Committee report was released at the Natural Resources’ Forum in Prince George: http://www.bcnaturalresourceforum.com/.
The committee concluded that there is an exciting opportunity for B.C. in the emerging bioeconomy. The market potential of this new economy is huge ($170 billion for bioenergy, $200 billion for bioproducts) and B.C. has some of the best fiber resources to feed it. The job potential of this sector is also great, making it the real “value-added” forest industry of the 21st century.
However, while the bioeconomy is developing in B.C. in an organic way, the committee heard from most presenters that the government must take a more proactive leadership role to maximize its long term economic and community benefits. Most other jurisdictions are already actively pursuing this sector and there was a sense of urgency expressed to us that B.C. needs to step up its attention to this sector of the economy.
This feedback led the committee to recommend that the B.C. government’s first step must be the development of a comprehensive vision for B.C.’s bioeconomy in collaboration with industry partners, entrepreneurs, academics and resource communities. This vision must outline where B.C. will focus its efforts and how it will support the development of this industry through the risky start up phase so it can become a mature community-supporting and job-generating sector.
Once this vision is developed, the committee recommended that government work with the existing forest products industry and bioproducts entrepreneurs to resolve the issue of access to forest fiber. It was made clear to the committee that a collaborative approach will be needed to ensure B.C.’s forest fiber is made available to new entrants without negatively impacting the existing industry.
The other three recommendations the committee made flow from these first two: develop a technology plan to focus research and development, develop an infrastructure plan to support this new industry’s needs, and develop a marketing strategy much like the successful China strategy.
I’m hopeful the government will act quickly on the development of the vision needed to get this exciting new sector up and running in B.C. as soon as possible.
By Bob Simpson