Things we’re watching in 2023

January 12, 2023

The team at NPC has the very good fortune of being closely connected to a range of early-stage companies, seasoned investors, global corporations, and many other experts within the realm of natural product innovation. This vast array of industry insights provides some interesting perspective. The following (in no particular order) represents some of the key themes in bio-based innovation that we’ll be paying close attention to in 2023. We hope you find it useful.

Fermentation and Cellular Agriculture

The focus on bioprocessing and bioproduction through fermentation and cellular agriculture continued to grow in 2022. We launched our national study on Canada’s fermentation capacity, and will continue with Phase 2 in the next few months. The incredible potential to harness these biological innovations to produce so many different products makes this a topic to follow both in Canada and around the world.

Economic Instability

While no one has a crystal ball, the cards revealed in 2022 seem to indicate more economic turbulence in 2023. You don’t need us to tell you that this has implications in a myriad  of places from consumer sentiment and corporate activity to availability of qualified workers. For our part, we pledge to continue to support the Canadian innovators that have truly great potential to help them reach the critical milestones that investors and institutional capital are seeking. We’re also looking forward to the investment activities of NPC Ventures, which we expect to see ramp up this spring.

Environmental Sustainability

Some would argue that the environmental message got a bit lost in 2022 with the dramatic political and economic upheaval happening around the world. But the deluge of unprecedented weather events, species at risk, and the ever-decreasing window to reach the Paris Agreement goals have kept this issue front and center for many governments and agencies, including NPC. We supported many companies whose products will help reduce GHGs through our Commercialization Programs and helped dozens more find the information, expertise, or capital they needed throughout our extensive network. We also launched our open innovation call for sustainable bioproducts late in 2022, and will be showcasing some of them in two special virtual pitch series this winter.


A significant aspect of the environmental effort has been around plastics. The fact that the carbon-derived material takes literally hundreds of years to break down, and is also infiltrating our soils, water and our bodies in the form of microplastics, has lifted the plastics issue to the forefront. Canada has been actively addressing this, and the ban on single use plastics began in 2022. Likewise the UN called for an end to global plastic pollution, and most of the world’s biggest manufacturers made announcements about their commitment to addressing this problem. NPC’s focus on biologically-based innovation means our interest in this issue is primarily in bio-based plastics. So we are happy to see BDC announce its second clean tech fund, which invested in compostable plastics maker, Genecis, one of our star clients in this field.

Alternative Proteins

While 2022 did not produce the same level of activity that we saw during 2020 and 2021, it was still an enormous year for alternative proteins. Vegan or plant-based foods continued to gain interest with unprecedented innovation around taste, texture and nutrition. Case in point, Big Idea Ventures invested in Canadian cell-ag company Genuine Taste, another NPC client. Cultivated meat also saw several positive developments in 2022, including US-based Upside Foods receiving FDA approval. It’s also worth noting that insect protein – for humans –  gained ground in Europe as house crickets and yellow mealworms were granted novel food status.

Here at home, NPC and partners launched an expansive report on Canada’s $290B alternative protein opportunity. Many of the players are on our ‘ones to watch’ list for 2023.

Investment in Bio-Based Innovation

Given so many other factors on this list, and the headline-grabbing $2B US Government commitment to biotechnology and biomanufacturing, it’s fair to say that bio-based innovation is going to be top of mind in 2023. With so much investment from the US, many other global leaders will be trying to keep pace. Canada’s federal government announced a new innovation agency in the March 2022 budget, with details expected sometime in 2023. Provincial governments are noting this opportunity to address some of the climate challenges with sustainable and job-producing industries that create more value from local resources that are synonymous with Canada such as forestry, fresh water, and agriculture. There’s a palpable buzz to transition human, financial and infrastructure resources from carbon-heavy to bio-based, and we’re seeing it at the provincial and municipal levels with unique projects such as the New Institute of Cellular Agriculture in Alberta. We expect many similar investments in 2023.   

Mental Health and Nutrition

During the pandemic-related lockdown, interest surged for food, supplements and other solutions to protect and enhance health. It spurred a rise in interest in mental health through nutrition that has persisted as stress and anxiety continue to increase. Products to support calm, focus, sleep, and energy have gained traction, and extensive research into issues like the gut-brain connection and the explosion of interest around psylocibin/psychadelics are helping guide new product development. We expect much more in this arena in 2023.

Food Security and Sustainability

Food continued to take centre stage in 2022 as supply chain issues, inflation, and weather-related factors took a toll the production, distribution and cost of food. With a focus on bio-based innovation, NPC was particularly focused on product development of things like bio-stimulants and biopesticides in the agriculture space, as well as value added products from foods that would otherwise end up in the landfill. NPC clients helping to address these issues like Smallfood’s algae-based seafood and Chinova’s chitosan-derived food preservative continue to make progress.

What do you think? We’d love to get your take on these items, and hear your thoughts on the biggest issues and opportunities for 2023.