What’s the downside to the automotive innovation in Canada?
A statistic (that is unverified) states that 80 percent of the R&D done in the world happens in Canada due to research incentives, mostly federal government based-programs like Canada’s Scientific Research & Experimental Development and Canada National Research Council’s Industrial Research Assistance Program. Private investment in Canada is difficult unless you’re trying to do oil, gas or mining, but only five percent is commercialized here due to the lack of commercialization incentives and limited market and manufacturing capacity. We might find that Canada cannot support some areas of the vehicle components in the production numbers we’re talking about. Our goal is to overcome those challenges, but it will take some serious cooperation from suppliers and with government support. If we cannot overcome that challenge, we’ll have to import certain components.
Do you see an increasing amount of incentives from governments concerned over environmental issues?
Absolutely. In the U.S., we see that trend. For example, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has a bio-preferred program. The U.S. government will purchase green product over non-green product. It’s more limited to commodity products, but that scope is definitely expanding. Right now in Canada, they’re paying for the research and development, so I’d be surprised if we receive any kind of subsidy for production.
What would help green composites expand into everyday use?
The big thing is to get this material out there so there are more people are aware of it and using it. We need more demonstration projects, basically any kind of project that is an advanced prototype phase that uses the material and will be built in limited numbers for testing. These could be projects like the Kestrel, canoes, skateboards, snowboards, skis, shower tubs, hot tubs, etc. Once people in industry see the materials working, there will be wider adoption into larger projects—the big guys never go first.
How can composite manufacturers break into the automobile market?
With materials and tooling becoming less expensive, and the adoption of high-end software into smaller companies, it’s allowing SME’s to enter the automotive industry. We’re seeing this all over the world. There are still the challenges of distribution and maintenance to overcome, but, it’s not stopping companies from taking the first step into production programs.