The bioeconomy is alive and is set to grow. This is the strong message coming from Vicenza, Italy, where last Thursday and Friday was held the sixth edition of IFIB, the Italian Forum on Industrial Biotechnology and Bioeconomy.
About 300 participants. Among them some of the big global companies active in the bioeconomy: Braskem, Dow, Novamont, NatureWorks, Mossi Ghisolfi, Clariant, GFBiochemicals and Carlsberg. Innovative start-ups, universities and research centers, as well as clusters such as Clib2021 (Germany), IAR Pole (France) and Bio-based Delta (Netherlands). And again: OECD, European Investment Bank, German Bioeconomy Council.
“Sustainability – Rafael Cayuela, Chief Economist at Dow Chemical, stated – is a huge technological challenge but also the single largest business opportunity of this generation”.
According to Cayuela, who is the author of The Future of the Chemical Industry by 2050, a book published in 2013 by Wiley about the future of the world’s chemical industry, “The need to make energy use more efficient and to reduce CO2 will entail a considerable cost for the industry, but more importantly a huge business opportunity. In a world ready to live with barely 4,000 grams of CO2 per capita a day by 2050, from 28,000 of 2010, the chemical industry, technology and innovation are to play an extraordinary role. The need to reduce emissions and energy use will represent the single biggest business opportunity in human history, up to $80,000 billion by 2050”.
The use of biological resources by the chemical industry does not simply depend on economic reasons, but on the need to deal with climate change and to develop a sustainable economy. “What we want – said Henri Colens, Head of Public Affairs at Braskem Europe – is a level playing field”. The bioeconomy today is a phenomenon that is growing worldwide. Europe has competitors that can boast many strengths, such as Canada and Brazil. But also China, which – as mentioned by Jim Philp, OECD – “is investing $100 million to establish a national innovation system for industrial biotechnology to promote eco-friendly development of the economy”.
“Brazil – said Bernardo Silva, president of ABBI, Brazilian Association of Industrial Biotechnology – can expand biofuel production by 50% without adding one single hectare of sugarcane plantation”. The South American country “can potentially produce more than 5 billion of second generation ethanol per year by 2025”.
IFIB was also an opportunity for two important announcements. Giulia Gregori, Novamont, said that Novamont’s bio-based butanediol (BDO) plant in Bottrighe di Adria (Veneto, North-eastern Italy), established as a joint venture (Mater Biotech) with San Diego-based Genomatica and now entirely controlled by the company headquartered in Novara, will come on stream on 30 September. It is a big step forward for the Italian bioeconomy, which is confirmed in its leading role in Europe.
Chris Patermann said that the European Commission will announce next October the establishment of an International Bioeconomy Forum. A further recognition that the bioeconomy is an international phenomenon, which requires international collaborations.
The next edition of IFIB will take place on 5-6 October 2017 in Rome.