“This innovation challenge was an opportunity for MTI to take an active role in helping to identify promising and innovative technologies to help address daunting challenges in one of our key industrial sectors.”
Two bio-based companies located in Maine, US, have received $750,000 each to develop their bio-based products.
GO Lab, which makes insulation out of wood fibre, received the first $750,000 award from the Maine Technology Institute under the Emerging Technology Challenge for Maine’s Forest Resources competitive grant programme launched in December to boost Maine’s rural forest-based economy.
GO Lab’s production facility, located at the former UPM paper mill in Madison, Maine will consume 180,000 tonnes of softwood chips annually, create 100 jobs and generate approximately $70 million in annual revenue.
The second $750,000 award was given to Biofine Developments Northeast (BDNE). BDNE is developing a renewable heating oil substitute.
The challenge grants are an offshoot of MTI’s collaboration of the Forest Opportunities Roadmap (FOR/Maine) Initiative, which is backed with funding from the federal Economic Development Administration and Department of Agriculture and is actively seeking out and supporting emerging technology companies in the forest resource sector. MTI is a publicly financed, private, non-profit organisation created by the Maine government in 1999 to stimulate R&D activity leading to the commercialisation of new products.
Trade association Biobased Maine vetted and evaluated proposals submitted for the competitive challenge grants.
“MTI supports Maine’s robust forest products industry, including efforts to diversify it,” said Brian Whitney, MTI’s President. “This innovation challenge was an opportunity for MTI to take an active role in helping to identify promising and innovative technologies to help address daunting challenges in one of our key industrial sectors. And, it’s a model that we can replicate to address formidable problems plaguing other sectors in our state.”
Over the past several years, Maine’s forest industry stakeholders have collaborated to chart a course for the future of the industry.
According to MTI, the industry remains strong and robust, contributing an estimated $8.5 billion annually to the state’s economy, with the potential to grow to $12 billion by 2025.
It is poised to embrace new opportunities, and there have been recent success stories. In the past few years, approximately $1.02 billion has been invested in Maine’s forest industry, including pulp and paper equipment, wood processing equipment, energy production, and new facility construction.
“MTI’s support of Maine’s forest industry is crucial to the growth and continued success of the state’s innovation and sustainability efforts,” says Patrick Strauch, Forest Opportunity Roadmap/Maine (FOR/Maine) Co-Chair and Executive Director of the Maine Forest Products Council.
Strauch added: “Maine has an incredible, sustainable forest resource that in the past went primarily to papermaking and lumber. These remain our core products, but the industry will soon look much more diverse; and Maine’s sustainably-harvested forest residuals will be raw material for renewable chemicals, biofuels, advanced materials, and other high-value products.”