EU Trade and Learning Mission focused on Smart Energy & Bioeconomy

April 11, 2024

SGIN, in partnership with BioIndustrial Innovation Canada (BIC) wrapped up Q1 by championing a Canadian mission to Belgium, the Netherlands, France, and Sweden, thanks to CanExport Associations funding from the Government of Canada and Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency funding. This mission marked the final component to a 2023/2024 EU focused effort that included ENLIT 2023, completed with this comprehensive all-energy mission.  Sixteen Canadian organisations participated in the mission which spanned over 10 days. The delegation comprised of a diverse group representing various industry types including SMEs, NGOs, academia, and government participants, totalling 22 representatives. 

Below is an overview of the mission sites and events in which the delegation engaged in over the course of the 10-day mission:

Day 1: 

  • Delegates arrived in Belgium and explored industry and research opportunities in decarbonization, bioeconomy, and smartenergy solutions by visiting ArcelorMittal, North Sea Port, and Bio Base Europe Pilot Plant. 
  • Starting with Arcelor Mittal’s plant tour, the mission delegates were introduced to the steel company’s activity in decarbonizing and creating net new circular value from their operations, including waste heat, exhaust, and co-locating CO2 conversion to Methanol (Steelanol and Torero) using Fischer-Tropp and bacteria conversion. This was very well received by all, as those with or without the bioconversion familiarity were excited to see a reasonable industrial scale operation. 
  • The Port of Gent (North Sea Port): The port hosted the Canadian group for a full morning, with contributions from senior management, outlining their operations and their developments. This was then followed by a networking lunch, where our delegates were able to have more closer conversations.  The North Sea port was one of the first ports in the EU to focus on energy transition as a multi-modal port. This focus has made them a prime player in hydrogen, Co2 and electrification of port assets. 

Day 2: 

  • First stop: VITO Cluster where delegates toured the LignoValue Pilot – the first and only pilot plant for bio-aromatics from lignin: bio-based chemicals that replace fossil products and perform even better in high-performance applications, such as paints, coatings and composites. 
  • The VITO cluster provided participants with an overview focused primarily on bioenergy conversions development and how the use of biomass and wastes for higher value upcycling is supporting the EU’s decarbonization. A very good conversation ensued with the VITO presenters and the mission delegates concerning the issues to be faced, differences between the Canadian and European progress and barriers facing our energy and industry sectors. 
  • The day continued with a tour of and discussions with the BBEU Pilot Plant, where the tour highlighted the many scaling up capabilities that the facility has to offer. A good discussion was held concerning the model for how the BBEU was established (public, private partnership), how it operates today and the opportunities for partnerships and collaboration. 

Day 3: 

  • Half of the Delegation made their way to Riems, France to participate at the BIOKET Bioeconomy Key Enabling Technologies platform. This global conference focused on processes, innovation and technologies applied to biomass in support of a low-carbon economy. More specifically, the BIOKET themes for this year’s event were decarbonization and energy transition. Again, the inclusion of BIOKET was well aligned with both SGIN and BIC’s goals. Mission participants took part in panels, conference presentations, site visits, conference floor booths, and B2B meetings with international participants. 
  • The other half of the Delegation travelled to EnergyVille in Genk, Belgium. The day spent at EnergyVille included tours and meetings with staff and partners of EnergyVille. Among the tours were the solar panel testing facility, battery testing facility, home envelope testing facility, a deep retrofitting village program and a meeting focused on partnership development. 
  • A special thank you to the team at EnergyVille & Flux50 Margo Colson, Kristel Boonen, Gerrit Jan Schaeffer, Guy Vekemans for kindly welcoming our Canadian Delegates and demonstrating the art of the possible.  

Day 4: 

Day 5: 

Day 6: 

  • Roundtable discussion & presentations with Business Region Göteborg AB 
  • Business meeting with WSP Head Office Sweden focused on decarbonization. WSP, one of the world’s leading engineering and professional services firms dived into the green transition and bioeconomy challenges and opportunities in Sweden and Canada. 
  • Tour of Södra Varo – the world’s largest and most modern softwood kraft pulp mill. It is of interest to note that this mill is a stone’s throw from one of Sweden’s nuclear facilities. The company is held by a large base of private woodlot owners and has been operating with several vertical developments for many years. The Sodra Varo plant has several operations integrated into a foot print which is not dissimilar to many Canadian pulp mills, but is delivering significantly more products, leveraging a green energy footprint. This includes, lumber, parallam, wood chips, biomass pellets, pulp, excess power and several green fuels and oils. A sophisticated set of processes are capturing large amounts of secondary waste heat to optimise heat and energy use across all areas of the operation. Methanol is produced and used as an alternative fuel for steam production and two steam generation units produce over 14 MW of power of excess for use by the local community.  Finally, the excess steam and waste heat is further used to provide domestic heat for the local community through district heating, reducing the load of needed electricity. 

Day 7: 

  • Climate Leading Processing Industry (Klimatledande Processindustri), an initiative striving towards a fossil independent and competitive industry.  
    CLOSERse, a neutral collaboration platform, knowledge node and project workshop for increased transport efficiency and well-functioning logistics. 
  • Stop 3: Liquid Wind – a electrofuel development company with a vision to reduce the world’s dependency on fossil fuel. Liquid Wind has been named one of the top 5 energy startups in the world.  
A very valuable mission in both aspects of learning and trade. BIC and SGIN are proving themselves integral to promoting Canada's unique capabilities. BIC and SGIN are performing an essential service, connecting Canadian industry with potential trade partners - foreign and domestic.
Rob Sauro
I cannot speak highly enough of my experience with the trade and learning mission. It was truly a transformative journey that opened doors to new opportunities and connections on both a national and international scale. The mission not only provided valuable insights into emerging markets and industry trends but also fostered meaningful collaborations and partnerships. I am grateful for the support and resources provided throughout the mission, and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking to expand their horizons and drive growth in today's interconnected global economy.
Patricia Seaman
Terre Neuve Consulting Ltd.
This was an amazing experience for NSMTC, as the first time our organization has had a presence overseas. We will be sharing a more detailed summary in the days ahead, but applaud all those involved in organizing and executing - job well done!
Kevin Woods
North Shore Mi'kmaq Tribal Council
The SGIN/BIC mission to the EU was a phenomenal experience which helped to highlight the myriad of opportunities for Canada both in the EU and abroad. Not only did it bring the EU into focus but it helped me build relationships with Canadian colleagues in woukd not have connected with otherwise. Overall a fantastic program and experience, and one that i would not hesitate to recommend.
Chris Dickie

Canadian Delegation:  

  • Government of British Columbia, Ministry of ForestsGustavo Oliveira Director, Innovation, Bioeconomy and Indigenous Opportunities
  • ES Recycle Ltd.Ravi Gade, Founder & CEO
  • Greenspring Bioinnovation Hub Rod Badcock, Executive Director
  • IDÉ Trois-RivièresMarc Lionel Gagnon, Développement des affaires – Europe, and David Berthelot, Business Development and Prospecting Director
  • Foresight Canada  – Alyssa Kelly, Director of Research
  • Invest Nova Scotia – Suzanne Fraser, Investment Attraction Executive
  • Natural Resources Canada – Andrew Klain, Senior Policy Analyst – Circular Bioeconomy and Supply Chain Economics Team, Economic Analysis Division / Trade, Economics, and Industry Branch, Canadian Forest Service / Natural Resources Canada
  • Omni-save Energy Inc. and McAlpha Energy Solutions Inc. – Stephen Odusanya, Management and Renewable Energy Project Developer
  • Remedy Energy Services  – Richard Hawker, President
  • ResearchNB – Chris Dickie, Director of BioNB
  • Terre Neuve Consulting Ltd. – Patricia Seaman, Principal Consultant
  • Reynold Stokes Engineering  – Rob Sauro, President 
  • The Verschuren Centre (VC) for Sustainability in Energy and the Environment – Beth Mason, CEO
  • Zone d’Innovation – Vallée de la Transition Énergétique  – Guillaume Parenteau, Development Vice President
  • University of New Brunswick – Hart Devitt, Director, Research & Innovation Partnerships
  • North Shore Mi’ kmaq Tribal Council – Kevin Woods, Director of Energy Services and Jim Ward, General Manager

Mission Team:  

  • Smart Grid Innovation Network Canada – Chris Mathis, SGIN Associate
  • Bioindustrial Innovation Canada – Meaghan Seagrave, Executive Director and Keith Simmons, Project Engineer

It was an incredible week+ travelling to four countries touring over 10+ site visits, presentations, and networking events exploring industry and research opportunities in decarbonization, bioeconomy, and smart energy!

SGIN wishes to acknowledge, with great appreciation, CanExport Associations and ACOA’s invaluable support of our recent SME Trade & Learning Mission. As this mission overview indicates, delegate feedback underscores both the usefulness of the trip as well as the extent of the need for future such initiatives in support of SME businesses in Canada. 🇨🇦 

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