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BioFoam Insulation Challenge

Challenge Synopsis

Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), through the Innovative Solutions Canada Program, is looking to encourage the development of a novel bio-based (predominantly derived from domestic forest residue) chemical formulation that can be used in foam insulation material with similar insulation values as petroleum based foam insulation material and fully recyclable at end of life.


Challenge Statement

NRCan is seeking Canadian innovators who are developing new bio-based alternatives derived from Canadian forest residue and encouraging them to apply to the new BioFoam Insulation Challenge through Innovative Solutions Canada.

Foam insulation, both sprayed in place (polyurethane plastic) and in board format (Styrofoam –polystyrene plastic), is one of main type of insulation material used in Canadian homes.  It is a popular choice as it is cost effective and has a high insulation value.  Spray foam insulation is installed in between 300,000 and 400,000 Canadian homes every year, a number that has been growing year over year.

The drawback with commercially available foam insulation products is that the vast majority are made from petroleum based plastics (in foam format).  As such, they are not biodegradable, difficult to recycle at end of life, come from non-renewable resources and their production emits substantial amounts of GHGs.



Energy efficiency in the buildings sector is essential to address climate change as buildings are a significant source of energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions in Canada.  Energy efficiency delivers many other benefits.  Products that enable buildings to be designed to use less energy ultimately save money for owners, managers and occupants, including tenants. A commitment to efficient design may also attract investors who value environmentally responsible and sustainable building practices.

Given that the construction, renovation and demolition waste accounts for about 12% of all solid waste generated in Canada (source: Statistics Canada), most of which is currently disposed in landfills, it is crucial that we support the development of environmentally friendly building materials that are energy efficient and can easily be recycled at end of life to avoid contributing to the landfill problems.


Response Criteria

  1. Meet the Innovative Solutions Canada Program Eligibility Criteria, such as be a for profit organization incorporated in Canada (either federally or provincially), and be a small or medium enterprise (under 500 employees). For more details please consult:
  1. Develop a close to 100% bio-based (predominantly derived from domestic forest residue) chemical that can be foamed.
  2. Insulation values of foam product (within 20%) of currently commercially available petroleum version.
  3. Similar cost (within 20%) as currently available petroleum version.
  4. Less flammable that petroleum based versions.
  5. Fully recyclable at end of life.


The Opportunity

NRCan is interested in supporting the development of new Made in Canada environmentally friendly building materials, and believes Biofoam Insulation products could be beneficial for the Canadian forestry sector, construction sector as well as home owners.   It will be inviting interested Canadian SMEs to take up this challenge through the Innovative Solutions Canada process later in May.

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About Natural Resources Canada

Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) seeks to enhance the responsible development and use of Canada’s natural resources and the competitiveness of Canada’s natural resources products. NRCan is an established leader in science and technology in the fields of energy, forests, and minerals and metals and use our expertise in earth sciences to build and maintain an up-to-date knowledge base of our landmass.

NRCan develops policies and programs that enhance the contribution of the natural resources sector to the economy and improve the quality of life for all Canadians.

NRCan conducts innovative science in facilities across Canada to generate ideas and transfer technologies. NRCan also represent Canada at the international level to meet the country’s global commitments related to the sustainable development of natural resources.


About Innovative Solutions Canada

Innovative Solutions Canada is a new program with over $100 million dedicated to supporting the scale up and growth of Canada’s innovators and entrepreneurs by having the federal government act as a first customer. Twenty participating federal departments and agencies will set aside a portion of funding to support the creation of innovative solutions by Canadian small businesses.

Innovative Solutions Canada is aimed squarely at innovators. By funding proposed solutions, the program is supporting the development of early-stage, pre-commercial innovations. The program is a core element of the Innovation and Skills Plan announced in Budget 2017 and the government’s commitment to create better jobs and grow the middle class.