By Kathleen M. Roberts
On July 26, 2017, the European Commission announced the launch of the Bioeconomy Knowledge Centre, which was created by the Joint Research Centre (JRC) and the Directorate General for Research and Innovation (DG RTD) to better support policy makers with science-based evidence in the bioeconomy field. Rather than generate information, the objective is to build on JRC’s expertise in knowledge management. The online platform will collect, structure, and provide access to knowledge from a wide range of scientific sources on the bioeconomy, the sustainable production of renewable biological resources, and their conversion into valuable products. The platform will also support the European Commission in the review of the 2012 Bioeconomy Strategy, taking into account new political and policy developments, such as the Paris agreement, the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals, and the Circular Economy Package.
By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.
On July 20, 2017, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) awarded 34 grants totaling $15.1 million for research on renewable energy, biobased products, and agroecosystems. The grants, which are funded through the agency’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), are expected to help develop the next generation of renewable energy, bioproducts, and biomaterials; protect the ecosystems that support agriculture; and improve the agricultural systems and processes that help feed the nation.
The following institutions were awarded grants for projects focused on cover crop systems for biofuel production:
- USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) received $494,000 for the development of lupin, cereal rye, and carinata winter cover crops for biomass in the southern coastal plain;
- Purdue University received $498,000 for the development of cover cropping for the development of sustainable co-production of bioenergy, food, feed (BFF) and ecosystem services (ES);
- Iowa State University of Science and Technology received $498,378 for the development of perennial cover crop systems for maize grain and biomass production;
- Louisiana State University Agricultural Center received $387,000 to study the feedstock production potential of energy cane-sweet sorghum rotation with a winter cover crop system; and
- University of Nebraska received $500,000 to assess innovative strategies to maximize cover crop yields for biofuel across a precipitation gradient.
The following institutions were awarded grants for projects focused on the socioeconomic implications and public policy challenges of bioenergy and bioproducts market development and expansion:
- Auburn University received $499,886 to identify the economic barriers to biomass production, to evaluate the effectiveness of the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) in stimulating biomass market expansion, and to explore the economic and ecosystem service implications of biomass production;
- Colorado State University received $499,000 to produce a unified atlas of marginal lands in the U.S., and provide insight on the costs, potential environmental benefits, and overall practical likelihood of using those lands for biomass feedstock production;
- Purdue University received $492,099 to develop a dynamic theoretical model on rejuvenating coal-power plants with biomass;
- Iowa State University of Science and Technology received $499,622 to provide an integrated model-based assessment of the socioeconomic, policy, and market implications of sustainable bioenergy derived from cellulosic biomass; and
- University of Missouri received $498,441 to evaluate impacts on forest resources surrounding power plants using woody biomass, assess economic impacts of wood biopower systems, and quantify tradeoffs between cost, carbon reductions, and renewable energy generation obtained by the increased use of wood biopower.
More information on the grants is available at the NIFA website
By Kathleen M. Roberts
On July 20, 2017, USDA released its technology transfer report for fiscal year 2016. The report outlines the public release of information, tools, and solutions and the adoption and enhancement of research outcomes by collaborative partners and formal Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADA) that occurred in 2016.
The report highlights several research initiatives by ARS scientists focused on supporting the bioeconomy, including:
- Development of a new yeast strain with a unique cellulolytic enzyme that efficiently breaks down biofeedstock, shows resistance to inhibitory compounds, and eliminates the need to add other enzymes to the production process;
- Engineering a yeast strain from a Brazilian ethanol plant to convert plant xylose to ethanol and then identifying a strain with excellent performance;
- dentification of a strain of yeast capable of converting inulin, a major polysaccharide derived from coffee processing waste, into cellulosic ethanol;
- Development of genetic methods to control the conversion of agricultural sugars to compounds called liamocins using yeast; and
- Studying the use of lytic enzymes as an alternative to antibiotics for preventing and controlling bacterial contamination of fuel ethanol fermentations during biorefining.
The full report, titled “Fiscal Year 2016 Annual Report on Technology Transfer” is available on USDA’s website
Scientists, executives, and investors gathered in Montreal, Canada on Tuesday evening for a fascinating and wide-ranging discussion on current issues facing bioeconomy leaders and innovators. The reception, hosted by Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) and Sterne, Kessler, Goldstein & Fox P.L.L.C., included a brief question and answer (Q&A) session with Christine Lhulier, Corporate Counsel for DuPont Industrial Biosciences, Richard E. Engler, Ph.D., Senior Chemist with B&C, and Jeremiah B. Frueauf, Director in the Biotechnology/Chemical Group at Stern Kessler. The panel discussed the variety of the incentives and challenges related to growing the bioeconomy, and fielded questions from many of the attendees.
When asked what industries might be affected by the bioeconomy in 2040, Ms. Lhulier stated that she could not name an industry that would not be impacted by renewable resources in the future. In response to the question “what should be the key driver in growing the bioeconomy?,” the panelists highlighted the need for clear regulatory policies that ensure parity for the commercialization of biobased and petroleum-based products, while recognizing the role that industry and academic institutions play in driving innovation. It was also noted that global alignment on biobased policies and procedures, and the development of feedstock-agnostic technologies, would help to accelerate the growth of the bioeconomy.
After a guest commented on the impact the negative public perception of biotechnology has on innovation, Dr. Engler pointed out the public’s poor understanding of biotechnology, its safety, and the extent to which it is utilized in the marketplace already. Another attendee suggested that the biobased industry consider playing a role in informing the public of the benefits of biobased processes. At the conclusion of the Q&A portion of the evening, many guests stayed to continue the conversation with the panelists and attendees.
By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.
The Department of Energy’s (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) is hosting its tenth annual Bioeconomy 2017: Domestic Resources for a Vibrant Future conference on July 11-12, 2017, in Arlington, Virginia. As in years past, the conference will bring together government agency officials, members of Congress, industry leaders, national laboratory scientists, and academic researchers focused on moving the American bioeconomy forward. Discussion will focus on:
- Innovative technologies for the emerging bioeconomy;
- The economic opportunities of reliable American feedstock;
- New and growing markets for the bioeconomy;
- Bioenergy as part of the modern transportation future; and
- Leveraging the bioeconomy to create new jobs and address global challenges.
Registration is available online.
By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.
On May 2, 2017, the Maine Senate approved a bill to support Maine’s emerging biobased products industry. An Act to Improve the Ability of Maine Companies to Manufacture and Market Bioplastics (LD 656) would provide the Maine Technology Institute with a $1.5 million grant to provide competitive grants for the development, production, and marketing of bioplastics. The bill was introduced by Senator Jim Dill (D-Old Town) and endorsed by Senator Dana Dow (R-Waldoboro), Senator Tom Saviello (R-Wilton), and 17 Democratic Senators. Following approval by the Senate, the bill will be introduced to the Maine House of Representatives for an initial vote.
On September 7, 2016, the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) released the report "Advancing the Biobased Economy: Renewable Chemical Biorefinery Commercialization, Progress, and Market Opportunities, 2016 and Beyond." This report documents substantial growth in the renewable chemical industry, and covers domestic policies impacting renewable chemical commercialization. Policy drivers that are explored include the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), the 2014 Farm Bill, draft legislation, state and federal tax incentives, and the Master Limited Partnerships Parity Act (MLP). The report also reviews currently operating biorefineries to identify biotechnology solutions beyond biofuels currently undergoing commercial development.