Advancing a Strategic Innovation Agenda for the U.S. Forest Sector
To reverse recent negative trends in research spending along with significant declines in federal funding the U.S. Endowment is crafting a strategic innovation agenda to advance the U.S. forest sector. This strategy will advance the U.S. Forest Sector by making investments in applied research aimed at rapid commercialization of technology in the forest products sector. This is a priority for the Endowment because we believe a new model based on public private partnerships is critical to advancing the forest sector and strengthening bot long and short term research that benefit working forests. For example, before the 2008 recession, U.S.-based wood products research spending was just 0.6 percent of sales, compared with an average of 3.4 percent for all U.S. manufacturing. This will not lead to a robust sector, and without markets the value we derive from forests can be diminished. Other nations are rapidly outpacing U.S. investments in research. For example, Canada has combined three private sector institutes along with federal research and development to create a research powerhouse known as FPInovations. This approach in in stark contrast to what is happening at the U.S. the Forest Products Lab where employees have gone from 312 in 1993 to 157 today. While various groups have myriad ideas for funding research, there is no comprehensive vision to rapidly and strategically advance innovation in the U.S. Forest Sector. The Endowment is making investments in both crafting that vision and implementing strategic research investments developed in public private partnerships.
The resulting strategic agenda we craft will focus on:
Investing in rural America and creating value and wealth from America’s forests
Keeping U.S. businesses competitive
Investing in wood, the Nation’s renewable and greenest of building materials
Changing the world through advanced cellulosic nanomaterial which has the ability to replace nonrenewable and environmentally less desirable materials
Creating markets for byproducts of accelerated restoration activities on National Forests
Producing advanced energy solutions from renewable material
Addressing climate change through innovative uses of forest products sequestering carbon and reducing energy uses
The Endowment is convinced and there is general agreement across the forest sector, within the USFS and with its partners that investments in innovation are necessary. However, to be most effective we must clearly define appropriate targeted niches for investments and identify the highest potential for success in strategic and coordinated ways. To advance this approach we will develop a framework that:
establishes criteria for making investments
anticipates potential missed opportunities
creates measures for success
identifies leverage opportunities from different partners
The Endowment sees strategic investments necessary in three primary areas:
Advanced wood energy
The Endowment and its partners have already begun to advance efforts on cellulosic nanotmaterials by creating a public private partnership known as P3Nano. The initial partners, the USDA Forest Service and the Endowment are focused on rapidly advancing the commercialization on cellulosic nanomaterial.
This is a public-private partnership designed to help keep America’s forests and forest-based economy healthy and sustainable through the development and use of wood-based nanomaterial for a wide-range of commercial products. P3Nano will help diversify the economy; create new family-supporting jobs; provide materials for a new green economy, and contribute to critical forest restoration needs of working forests across all ownerships. P3Nano’s over-riding objective in its first three years is to facilitate the development of the first, appropriately scaled, commercial facility producing cellulosic nanomaterial in the United States.