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Mapping the future expansion of Europe’s biotechnology sector

A roadmap designed to establish a thriving EUR 50 billion industrial biotechnology sector in Europe by 2030 has just been launched.

The roadmap was unveiled at the final high level conference of the EU-funded BIO-TIC project which took place in Brussels. The conference, entitled ‘From bugs to business: Unlocking the Bioeconomy in Europe’ also discussed the current state of industrial biotechnology and featured keynote speeches from leading industry figures. Industrial biotechnology, also known as white biotechnology, uses enzymes and micro-organisms to improve industrial processes and generate valuable products in sectors such as chemicals, food and feed, healthcare, detergents and energy. For example, industrial biotechnology can help reduce the time needed to bake bread, increase wine yield and save energy in laundry washing. Biotechnological processes also constitute a key element in the manufacturing of some antibiotics, vitamins, amino acids and other fine chemicals. BIO-TIC, which began in 2012, predicts that the market for industrial biotechnology-derived products is set to rapidly expand. The project team believes that this will be largely driven by the need to replace fossil carbon-based materials, as Europe moves towards a more sustainable and resource-efficient economy. However, significant hurdles to fully exploiting industrial biotechnology opportunities remain, including product cost-competitiveness in comparison to existing fossil fuel-based products. The BIO-TIC roadmap, which is the culmination of three years of work, was put together in response to these challenges. The plan outlines ten pragmatic recommendations for action, including improving opportunities for feedstock producers within the bioeconomy, investigating the scope for using novel biomass, developing a workforce which can maintain Europe’s competitiveness in industrial biotechnology and introducing a long-term, stable and transparent policy and incentive framework to promote the bioeconomy. The roadmap also recommends improving public perception and awareness of industrial biotechnology and bio-based products, identifying and building upon EU capabilities for pilot and demonstration facilities, promoting the use of co-products and improving the bioconversion and downstream processing steps. Finally, it calls for improved access to financing for large scale biorefinery projects and stronger relationships between conventional and non-conventional players in the value chain. In order to drive technological innovation further and build solid foundations for a growing industrial biotechnology sector in the EU, the project has also sought to encourage the growth of an online industrial biotech community. The BIO-TIC partnering platform was recently launched and has become the go-to web platform for industrial biotechnology experts and companies interested in exchanging views, discussing funding opportunities and showcasing their talent and products. BIO-TIC partners also wanted to provide industry and policy makers with a more accurate assessment of biomass and sustainability in industrial biotech. The online ‘Biobased products sustainability tool’ was developed in order to collect published data on ecological, environmental and socio-economic impacts. The objective has been to gather a set of ‘eco-profiles’ for relevant bioprocesses and provide users with the chance to consult existing sustainability data on a series of biobased products in one click. Products featured in the database have been chosen for their relevance to the BIO-TIC project. The BIO-TIC project was officially completed at the end of July 2015. For further information please visit: BIO-TIC http://www.industrialbiotech-europe.eu/

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26 January 2016