Can you imagine? In the near future boats could be made from wood!

There is a great article in the Economist this week about giant 3D printers.  In Maine researchers printed a fishing boat in 72 hours. But what was really interesting is that they are looking in the future to print the boat with wood fibre.  Imagine.  In the near future we could be building boats with wood.

A couple of things struck me about this article.  One, why am I not reading about New Brunswick research in the Economist?  Either a) we don’t have any R&D worthy enough (unlike Maine?) or b) we don’t promote it in ways that it would get covered by the Economist.  I hope it is not the former.

The more important observation is about the wood pulp.  Despite the many stories I read in Facebook about the decimation of New Brunswick’s forests, the province is still among the most forested jurisdictions in North America (and well beyond).  And there is enough replacement every year to ensure there will be similar level of wood harvest in perpetuity. So, logically, it would seem our researchers should be looking at innovative and high value uses for wood.  I know AV ships wood pulp to make clothing in China but I am curious if our researcher (firm or university) are looking at other uses – 3D printing is an interesting one.

Research investment, at least conceptually, should be aligned with other industrial strengths.  We have lots of wood, fish, blueberries, maple syrup, etc. – is our R&D strategy aligned?  A few years ago I wrote about my search to determine if anyone in New Brunswick was doing research on the health properties associated with maple syrup (and other uses).

There was.

In New Brunswick, New Jersey (at Rutgers University).

I’m not saying government should only support research in areas where we have other industrial strengths.  BioNB is doing interesting things in with hemp, for example.  However, it seems that alignment of R&D investment in ways that strengthen the value proposition for billion dollar export industries, at least makes some sense.  This isn’t restricted to natural resources.  I never could figure out why we don’t have more R&D related to the business support services industry.  It’s a billion dollar export industry for New Brunswick and I don’t think there is anything going on in academia to support it.  We have had a few very interesting private sector firms develop products to support the industry.