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Biorefinery Training Platform:
Bacterial Factories for Sustainable Chemical and Drug Production

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An education in biorefinery processes

A PhD programme developed in the EU trained 14 scientists in implementing bio-based approaches to produce chemicals and fuels. These emerging scientists are equipped to lead Europe – and the world – in next-generation biorefinery processes.

Industrial Technologies

Oil refineries, also known as petroleum refineries, process and refine crude oil to produce various fuels, chemicals and products such as gasoline, diesel and oils. Biorefineries start with biomass and, in a way similar to oil refineries, process it into chemicals and fuels. There is a growing demand to transition from oil-based chemical refineries to biorefinery processes. But, we require developments in science, technology and industry to facilitate this. The EU-funded BACTORY (Biorefinery training platform: Bacterial factories for sustainable chemical and drug production) initiative developed a PhD programme to provide emerging scientists with the scientific and industrially relevant skills for establishing next-generation biorefineries in Europe. To do this, the 3-year multidisciplinary programme integrated current research in relevant areas with corresponding industrial activities and production plans. The first round of BACTORY PhD students started on 1 May 2013. The scientific programme comprised research activities in three areas: discovery of novel biosynthesis pathways; metabolic engineering for designing microbial cell factories; and development of efficient production scenarios. Six research projects were carried out in the area of discovery and three in the area of metabolic engineering, and five projects addressed production. The individual research projects were defined in close collaboration with industrial partners to ensure their relevance to the industry. The PhD programme included participation in course activities to expand the students’ scientific skills and their awareness of business options. The training also offered close collaboration with industrial partners, which included small start-ups as well as large, world-leading chemical companies. The insights into industrial perspectives and requirements enabled crossover between academia and industry. Of the 14 PhD students who enrolled in the BACTORY programme, all have successfully defended their theses. After their 3-year training, the young researchers are prepared to become leading scientists, technologists and entrepreneurs. They are primed to set up next-generation biorefinery facilities and activities in Europe and elsewhere.

Keywords

Biorefinery, PhD programme, oil refineries, BACTORY, chemical and drug production

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