And for the future of a reality such as Evonik?
AM: Biotechnology is a future-oriented technology and, therefore, an integral part of Evonik’s growth strategy. Evonik has been active in the bioeconomy for decades. Our company’s portfolio comprises amino acids and derivatives, active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs), (bio)catalysts/products for the production of biofuels and platform chemicals, bio-based polyamides, bio-based polyester polyols for coatings/adhesives, active cosmetic agents, emollients, etc.
How much does Evonik invest in biotech R&D as percentage of the total turnover? What’s your plan on bioeconomy for the next years?
HG: With biotechnology, Evonik continuously improves the Group’s existing products, develops new products, and designs more efficient and sustainable manufacturing processes. Last year Evonik spent €365 million on research and development therefore more than €30 million in biotech R&D. In our Science-to-Business Center Biotechnology at the Marl site, Germany, research in “white biotechnology” focuses on two aspects: developing sustainable production processes such as fermentation and biocatalysis, and synthesizing bio-based materials that possess superior properties or present a significant cost advantage. The Science-to-Business Center Biotechnology is divided into four competence areas: Synthetic Pathways, Bio-Product & Process Development, Portfolio Development, and Networks Industrial Biotechnology. Currently, the Center devotes its research to the development of high-performance plastics, as well as to the manufacture of ingredients for cosmetics, such as anti-aging products. Projects of the Science-to-Business Center Biotechnology have been financially supported by the state of Nordrhein-Westfalen and co-financed by the European Union.
Meanwhile, you have also presented a development plan in the field of Health and Nutrition, right?
AM: Yes, Evonik’s Health & Nutrition business unit is active in biotechnological research and development. The business unit’s strengths are in metabolic engineering and in developing fermentative and enzymatic production processes. The Process Technology & Engineering service unit provides Health & Nutrition with support for designing processes and building facilities and facility components. In addition, Health & Nutrition operates a global network of production facilities of varying size, scope and specialization. They allow us to make specialty products for the pharmaceutical industry as well as high-volume products for nutrition applications. In the Health & Nutrition Business Unit alone Evonik is hoping for sales of €1 billion over the medium term for products made using biotechnology.
Give us some examples…
HG: Evonik will be investing some €350 million by 2014 to expand its Biolys® business. An amino acid used in animal feeds, Biolys® is a source of L-lysine produced via fermentation. Investments include construction of new L-lysine plants in Brazil and Russia capable of producing nearly 200,000 metric tons each year as well as a recently finished production expansion to 280,000 metric tons per year at its Blair site in North America. The new facilities are in line with the health and nutrition megatrends. As the world’s population grows, so does the demand for meat, fish, dairy, and eggs. As a consequence, feed production is increasingly relying on amino acids to supplement feed. Biolys®,a biotechnology product made from renewable resources, is globally known as a highly effective source of L-lysine for animal feed, which helps sustainably reduce costs in feed production and animal breeding. It also benefits the environment: in a life-cycle analysis certified by TÜV Rhineland, Evonik documented that supplementing the protein supply in animal feed with Biolys® is a particularly environmentally sound concept for adequate, healthy animal nutrition.
As far as Evonik’s concerned, is the Bioeconomy, together with Green Economy, the right answer to the challenges of the third Millennium?
AM: Developing a “green economy” was one of the key topics at the Rio+20 Conference, and with good reason. I feel that both issues – sustainability and efficiency – are important concerns for bio-based chemicals and are in no way contradictory. A sustainable economy does indeed need to look at the possibility of increasing bio-based elements. The chemical industry has the potential to play a key role in a sustainable economy. Evonik specialty chemicals activities focus on high-growth megatrends. The megatrends resource efficiency, health and nutrition, and globalization are the translation of the future needs of a growing, ageing, and global population. The Bioeconomy will have a key role in supporting the development of innovative products and technical solutions to answer these challenges.
(the Italian version of this interview is published on affaritaliani.libero.it/green)