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The Industrial Biotech Research and Innovation Platforms Centre - towards Technological Innovation and solid foundations for a growing industrial biotech sector in Europe

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Boosting industrial biotechnology

Using biotechnology in industrial processes is one of the most promising ways to reduce pollution, the waste of resources and costs, while opening up markets for new products. An EU-funded study identified barriers to industrial biotechnology (IB) so that they could be removed.

Industrial Technologies

The aim of the EU-funded BIO-TIC (The Industrial Biotech Research and Innovation Platforms Centre - towards Technological Innovation and solid foundations for a growing industrial biotech sector in Europe) project was to identify and overcome barriers to widespread market uptake of IB, in order to increase competitiveness. Scientists focused on the five product groups with the greatest potential for Europe and delivered recommendations for overcoming obstacles to innovation. The product groups were chosen based on criteria relating to their breakthrough potential, socioeconomic benefits and environmental impact. Four of the five product areas (bio-surfactants, biofuels for transport, bioplastics and chemical precursors to other products) exploited biomass. The fifth product group turned carbon dioxide from fossil fuel combustion, such as that found in exhaust gases at power plants, into novel products. An in-depth review of the technological barriers affecting the five sectors demonstrated a considerable overlap between the research and development needs of the five businesses studied. The single most important obstacle was found to be the lack of cost competitiveness of EU IB-derived products. Researchers developed a prototype tool by which the sustainability of IB products can be measured. This will aid assessments of the comparative advantages of IB products both compared to fossil equivalents, and between different IB products. This will enable consumers and end users to clearly identify the products which have the best sustainability credentials. The tool will also help industry, policymakers and academia in their work on sustainability-criteria for bio-based products. This will further stimulate the market introduction of bio-based alternatives with significant predicted environmental benefits. Project partners also developed and tested methodologies for assessing how much biomass is used for industrial products in the EU. Such a methodology is crucial to accurately assessing the impact of policies in this area and for proposing remedial actions to promote the sector where needed. BIO-TIC successfully fostered a positive environment for IB innovation in Europe. A better competitive position and faster development of new products will increase jobs for EU citizens and reduce the environmental impact of their work.

Keywords

Industrial biotechnology, BIOTIC, environmental impact, biomass, technological barriers, fossil equivalents

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