An exclusive interview with Jennifer Holmgren, the Most Innovative Bioeconomy CEO 2021

Jennifer Holmgren

The bioeconomy is key to our future! We are a community of business leaders working to solve our world’s greatest challenges. I am honored to be named among these visionaries and grateful to the readers of Il Bioeconomista for taking such a big interest in the work we all do. To say it – in this exclusive interview with Il Bioeconomista – is Jennifer Holmgren, the Most Innovative Bioeconomy CEO 2021 according to our readers. She talks about this recognition but above all about the bioeconomy and our carbonsmart future.

Interview by Mario Bonaccorso

Mrs. Holmgren. First of all, congratulations. You are the first woman to win this award. Is there a female question also in the bioeconomy?

Thank you! It is an honor to be recognized and I hope that we continue to see a diverse mix of leaders recognized for their contributions to the bioeconomy. To be honored as a woman and as a Latina is especially important because it shows underrepresented groups that there is a path to success in what has traditionally been seen as a male dominated industry with male leadership roles.  I hope that this will inspire other women and young girls to see that this doesn’t have to be a male dominated field and that everyone, no matter how they identify and from other underrepresented groups, can succeed. Indeed, they must because it is through diversity of thought that we will create new ideas and therein lies our collective path to success!

What does this new recognition mean for you?

The bioeconomy is key to our future! We are a community of business leaders working to solve our world’s greatest challenges. I am honored to be named among these visionaries and grateful to the readers of Il Bioeconomista for taking such a big interest in the work we all do. We have so much more work ahead of us, but through collaboration, leadership, and drive, we will get it done.

LanzaTech is one of the most dynamic companies worldwide. What are your plans for 2022?

Scale! More plants coming online globally and more CarbonSmart products in stores. We now have 2 operating commercial plants in China and next year our first European and Indian plants will come online. In parallel to this, we are creating strong networks to bring recycled carbon into global supply chains. In addition, we see our team growing as well, including the expansion of our capabilities in AI, modelling and synthetic biology as we expand our product range and create new chemicals and new markets for recycled carbon. From the lab to commercial plant and to a store near you, bringing household goods, clothing, fuels, packaging and more from recycled carbon, Iam excited to see what 2022 will bring in terms of being able to really live a CarbonSmart life!

The theme of the fight against climate change does not seem to be really on the agendas of world governments yet. What is your opinion on the recent COP26 and what measures do you think are really necessary at this very moment?

COP was interesting. I think we are seeing progress but its not happening fast enough. The commitments are coming, but they can’t keep up! Businesses seem to be leading in this space and adjusting timelines from 2050 to 2030 in reaching net zero. The sense of urgency should be there, but it does sometimes feel like there is too much talk and not enough action. As an example, we have been working on a policy framework for recycled carbon for almost 10 years! In a world where we have pretty much run out time to meet our climate goals, we need to be working on getting new technologies deployed asap and start producing. We constantly run the risk of letting the perfect be the enemy of the good which leads to inaction. We need supportive policies, price gap support mechanisms as we work to compete with fossil, we need a meaningful carbon price and we need to help new technology get steel in the ground and start up! We have to be smarter than the problem, and we are. We have to become bigger risk-takers, we have to not worry so much about the people that criticize us, the people who call to inaction and say what we do is wrong. I believe that carbon will define our generation, all of our generations; we will be defined by how we treat carbon, how we source it and how we dispose of it. All of the leaders and players in thebioeconomy will actually be the superheroes of the generation because we will be the ones who lead the change.

After two years we are still struggling with the pandemic. What can this difficult period really teach us from the point of view of our relationship with the environment?

Back in 2020 we spoke and I said that hopefully COVID will have taught us how bad things can get when we do not think, do not plan, do not collaborate, do not listen to the science, do not listen to early warnings. Here we are in 2021 facing more lockdowns, more deaths of loved ones and more variants. The simple fact is that we have to listen to the science and data and in the case of climate change, we need to be listening to the planet. We can see the warning signs from increased respiratory diseases from poor air quality, rising sea levels and flooding hitting countries from Asia to Europe. Extreme weather events and wild fire seasons that never seem to end and people making life decisions based on climate uncertainity from where to live or whether to have children. Our relationship with the environment is at an all time low and we must face the science, data and make the changes we need to stop this suffering.  

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