An exceptional week dedicated to the biorefinery will take place from September 30 to October 3 in Reims, France. The European Institute of biorefinery located near the capital of Champagne-Ardenne is one of the most important biorefineries in the world. Three million tons of biomass (sugar beet, wheat, alfalfa) are transformed each year to give sugar, glucose, starch, food or pharmaceutical alcohol, ethanol fuel, cosmetic actives.
Remarkable for synergies developed among actors, this site also includes an R&D dimension with Ard (research center) and its industrial demonstrator Biodemo, the Futurol project ( cellulosic ethanol), the Cebb (research center bringing together higher education institutions). During the week, it will be possible to visit two units: Cristanol and Futurol.
To support the development of the biorefinery in Champagne-Ardenne is the Industries & Agro-Ressources (IAR) biorefining Cluster, which is at the heart of plant chemistry and industrial biotechnology. All the projects supported by IAR Cluster are based on the biorefining model, also known as plant refining. Biorefining or plant refining uses every part of a plant, meaning that the whole plant is of value. Biorefining is part of an approach where non-food and food uses for agro-resources exist side by side and complement each other. Biorefining offers user markets molecules similar in properties and applications to those created by petroleum chemistry, as well as molecules with new uses. In this way, biomolecules, agro-materials, bioenergy and ingredients for food can be produced.
The Champagne-Ardenne region has a strong agricultural tradition (with winemaking and cereal farming as particularly strengths) and has attracted food industry and agricultural companies as a result. One in 15 of the region’s inhabitants works in the agricultural sector.
The biorefinery concept was generated by visionaries from the farming profession back in the 1990s, with a view to identifying non-food added-value uses for agricultural products – even though food production is and will remain a high priority. This concept prompted the creation of the Agro-industry Research and Development (Ard) institute and thus federated the human and financial resources of the region’s agricultural cooperatives.
The value-added exploitation of agricultural resources (particularly via the biorefinery) is a structural theme in the Champagne-Ardenne region’s innovation policy. The biorefinery sector is being championed by the IAR cluster and is catalysing regional innovation both upstream (i.e. fundamental research) and downstream (industrial development).