What a long, strange, and successful trip it’s been!
HiPerIn 2.0 was a fascinating project, which allowed CLIB to highlight the biotechnology landscape in NRW and beyond in numerous facets. It kicked-off at our CIC2020, the first (and last) face-to-face event in 2020, just before the Covid-19 pandemic struck. We responded by moving numerous events into the virtual space, took advantage of the new urgency which developed in forging ideas into actions against climate change and increased resilience, and engaged the public with new formats.
During the three eventful years of the project, HiPerIn 2.0 has initiated numerous R&D consortia, integrated many new players at sector interfaces, and improved the flow of information between science, industry, and society. From a scientific point, the project has shown that high-performance ingredients have already arrived in all reviewed market segments. We highlight these in our whitepapers. The importance of the cross-cutting issues turned out to be even more important than expected, as they can determine the success of a product more than the technology itself. These can be policy measures at different political levels, sustainability aspects, or consumer acceptance of new products – and all impact the market segments in different ways.
Ultimately, HiPerIn 2.0 has created important new impulses for an agile and future-proof biotechnology scene in NRW, by connecting stakeholders in the state and beyond.
Biotechnology in the Flavours and Fragrances Sector
The flavours and fragrances (F&F) sector is forecast to grow to over USD 36 billion by 2029, of which only 7% is produced biotechnologically today. In this white paper, we outline a SWOT analysis of biotechnology in the F&F sector as part of the HiPerIn 2.0 project. The strengths of biotechnology are a lower carbon footprint, less land consumption, more flexible value chains compared to current production methods and the possibility to design new molecules that are foreign to nature. Long development times and high investment costs are the weaknesses of biotechnologically produced food and beverages. Opportunities arise from consumer demands for natural and sustainable food and feed and from technological advances. Threats can be consumer mistrust, lack of investment and possible priority of green chemistry over biotechnology. Enabling factors and relevance for NRW are derived from this SWOT analysis and summarised in this white paper.
Biosurfactants – Trends and Perspectives
Currently, most synthetic surfactants are produced from fossil-based feedstocks. This white paper covers the current state and perspective of biosurfactants to replace such synthetic surfactants. Focussing on the industry in North-Rhine Westphalia, key players from industry, SME and academia were interviewed leading to this report. Beside economic aspects, chances and obstacles of process development and strain engineering play a major role. Without public support, the risk seems too high for chemical companies to develop an economical production process for biosurfactants alongside established processes. For ensuring the state’s industrial competitiveness in green chemistry, the state should create incentives promoting the economic production and thus the market entry of biosurfactants.
Biotechnology for a sustainable textile industry
This whitepaper gives an overview of the potential for biotechnology to increase the sustainabilityof the textiles industry.
The textiles industry, split into fashion and technical textiles, has a global market size of 920 bn USD and employs 75 M people worldwide. This makes it one of the biggest consumer good sectors. Its environmental footprint is high, its value chains long and complex – and mostly linear. In NRW, the textile industry has had its heyday and large-scale production has moved to other countries. However, there remains a significant industry in the region, which has focused on high-quality, especially technical textiles for specialised applications. In this, it is supported by excellent research organisations in the state.
Making the textile industry more sustainable will require not only investment, but also innovations to achieve resource efficiency, avoid the use of toxic chemicals, and close the material stream loops. In these three areas, biotechnology, and high-performance ingredients (HiPerIns) produced via biotechnology, can offer benefits. Enzymes for example are already used in the textiles industry and can reduce the energy and water consumption of processing steps, since they work at mild temperatures and can be immobilised, removing the need for washing steps. Their application can be finetuned to yield higher-quality fibres and textiles, increasing the overall value. Modern textiles for garments, but also technical use, often rely on chemicals for finishing. These can render a textile for example stain-, oil-, or wate-repellent. While these functionalities are beneficial to the consumer (and sometimes imperative, as for protective equipment), they often come at the expense of environmental sustainability. Chemicals applied can fall into the category of “forever chemicals”, which build up in the environment and are associated with harmful effects on humans. Here, biobased and biotechnological high-performance ingredients can help to provide functionality with reduced sustainability impacts. Lastly, ensuring access to sustainable feedstock, either through the production of bio-based natural or man-made fibres, or via recycling, can also be enabled via biotechnology.
In NRW, many stakeholders from academia, SMEs, and the chemical industry have excellent capabilities to innovate for the textile industry. A small, but agile and innovative textiles industry in the state can become pioneers in implementing their biotech innovations in this sector.
Biotechnology in the Food and Feed Sector – Bread and Butter or the Icing on the Cake?
The food sector is an important economic and employment factor for NRW and Germany. Closely coupled with the agricultural sector on the one hand and the end consumer trade on the other, the food industry is of decisive importance for feeding the population, but also has a major influence on sustainability as a whole and an important role as a supplier of raw materials for a future bioeconomy. Closely related to this, the feed sector takes on the important function of ensuring animal nutrition. In the HiPerIn 2.0 project, CLIB has been following biotechnological developments in these two market segments for the last three years.
Although biotechnology has been inextricably linked to food production for millennia, new trends have emerged in recent years that can basically be divided into three categories (these exist similarly in feed production). Biotechnology can enable new ways to produce high-quality proteins in a space-saving and more sustainable way. These include various edible microorganisms, but also the production of artificial meat from cell cultures. Biotechnology also plays an important role in food processing, where enzymes are indispensable. Finally, biotechnologically produced ingredients can improve food by enhancing special properties such as taste, colour, or shelf life.
Of all the market segments considered in the HiPerIn2.0 project, the food sector is probably the most influenced by cross-cutting issues. In particular, regulatory issues and public perception can equally be obstacles or drivers of new developments. Accordingly, the future success of biotechnology in this sector also depends on regulation that is open to technology and a successful communication with the public. In view of the strong regional players from science, the agricultural sector, industries, and networks, NRW can play to its strengths here.
Coatings and adhesives – a sustainable transition
Modern coatings and adhesives are mostly made from fossil raw materials and are mainly a product of the chemical industry. Historically, coatings and adhesives were made from bio-based materials such as waxes, greases, resins or birch tar. Although with the emerging chemical industry more and more specialised products and materials based on fossil resources have been developed, the use of bio-based solutions holds great potential for this industrial sector and the bioeconomy. North Rhine-Westphalia-based chemical industry offers a powerful and established environment for a transition, which on the one hand can use increasing restrictions, but also customer requirements and the ambition to reduce the environmental impact of the coatings and adhesives sector as a motivator to realise the transition to bio-based products and value chains. Participation in research projects and increasing experience with alternative raw materials help to generate a constantly growing knowledge base and to establish bio-based products on the market.
In the long term, this can support the defossilisation of the coatings and adhesives industry. Biotechnological applications have the potential to provide new speciality products for these markets and to support circularity and sustainability in the coatings and adhesives industry.
CLIB-Podcast at BioBall (in German)
CLIB-Sonderedition von BioBall im Gespräch mit:
- Dr. Manfred Kircher, BioBall e.V. (Moderation)
- Dr. Nadja Henke, Universität Bielefeld | KaroTec
- Dr. Roland Breves, Henkel AG & Co. KGaA
- Dr. Sonja Kubicki, Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf
Seifen, Shampoos, Medikamente, Waschmittel, Räucherlachs, Hautcreme – Dies sind alles Produkte in unserem Alltag, in denen bereits heute Biotechnologie eine große Rolle spielen kann. Die Verwendung biotechnologischer Verfahren reduziert dabei oft den Bedarf an fossilen Rohstoffen in der Herstellung und verbessert die Nachhaltigkeit. Doch was genau macht die Biotechnologie dabei und welche Möglichkeiten bietet sie für unsere Zukunft?
Diesen Fragen stellen sich in einer Sonderedition von „BioBall im Gespräch” drei Gesprächspartner: Dr. Nadja Henke von der Universität Bielefeld erklärt, was sie zur Initiierung des Transfer-Projekts KaroTec motiviert hat und welche Produkte daraus in Alltagsprodukten verwendet werden können. Dr. Roland Breves von Henkel geht darauf ein, welchen Effekt biotechnologisch hergestellte Enzyme in unseren Waschmitteln haben und wie sich das positiv auf unsere Stromrechnung und unsere Umwelt auswirkt. Dr. Sonja Kubicki von der Universität Düsseldorf beschreibt, warum immer mehr junge Menschen den Weg in die Biotechnologie suchen und wie die Zusammenarbeit von Universitäten mit Unternehmen zu nachhaltigem Fortschritt führen kann.
Diese Sonderedition von „BioBall im Gespräch“ ist in Zusammenarbeit mit CLIB entstanden. Die Gesprächspartner gehen daher auch darauf ein, welchen Nutzen sie aus der aktiven Einbindung in Netzwerke ziehen und wie CLIB dazu beiträgt, einige der großen Herausforderungen unserer Zeit zu meistern.