Remember those woody wagons, vehicles using real wood for their bodywork? If all goes to plan, we could soon see more wood-based materials used to replace plastics and lighten vehicles.

This could happen under the recently launched Industrial Biomaterials program announced by the Canadian government. The new initiative is aimed at helping create more fuel-efficient vehicles and greener construction materials.

“This new program will strengthen Canada’s role as a leader in the development of innovative, and sustainable materials and technologies,” said the Honourable Greg Rickford, Minister of State (Science and Technology). “This is yet another example of how we’re ensuring more ideas get to the marketplace, as this program integrates the expertise of the NRC with the business know-how of Canadian industry leaders to manufacture new lightweight, cost-effective and bio-sourced materials for next generation vehicles and homes, to improve the quality of life of Canadians.”

The Minister explained Industrial Biomaterials program is a $55-million initiative over five years consisting of a $30 million investment by the National Research Council of Canada (NRC), and $25 million generated through collaborative projects with industry, academic institutions and other government departments.

In its release, the ministry of Science and Technology said Canadian firms will now be able to transform agricultural and forestry by-products to create new materials and reduce the use of petroleum-based polymers (plastics).

Bioresins, biofibers and biocomposites made from Canadian non-food biomass (such as wood, lignin, grain husks, flax and hemp stems) are environmentally friendly and provide alternative ecological options. The program aims to ensure these will provide manufacturers sustainable and durable green products to use in next-generation automobiles and building materials.

“Agricultural and forestry by-products will be integrated into new materials, which will ultimately reduce the use of petroleum-based polymers,” said John R. McDougall, President of the National Research Council of Canada. “These biomaterials promise to be as safe as the materials currently in use by industry, inexpensive to produce and the ideal lightweight technology for the automotive and construction sectors.”

The program wants to combine resources from Canadian businesses to advance research and development in the manufacturing of industrial biomaterials. It will also help Canada’s transportation and construction industries remain competitive in global markets by ensuring that automotive parts manufacturers and green building material suppliers can adopt these leading-edge technologies.