The Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG) helps members develop and bring to market their innovative biobased and renewable chemical products through insightful policy and regulatory advocacy. BRAG is managed by B&C® Consortia Management, L.L.C., an affiliate of Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On June 6, 2017, AkzoNobel, a member of the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®), announced the winners of its Imagine Chemistry challenge.  The following winners have been awarded joint development agreements with AkzoNobel’s Specialty Chemicals business to help bring their ideas to market:

  • Ecovia Renewables was awarded for its fermentation technology to make polyglutamic acid, which can be used to make thickeners for personal care products and other uses;
  • Industrial Microbes was awarded for its solution to use genetically modified microorganisms to turn CO2 and natural gas into key chemical building blocks, such as ethylene oxide; and
  • Renmatix was awarded for its technology to use pressurized water to break down plant biomass into cellulosic products with a range of end-use applications.
The awardees were selected from a group of 20 finalists that participated in a three-day event at AkzoNobel’s Deventer Open Innovation Center.  In addition to the winners, seven other finalists were awarded prizes, such as a research agreement with AkzoNobel, chemical research support from AkzoNobel, a rent voucher for the Deventer Open Innovation Center, partner support by Icos Capital and KPMG, and partner support by Icos Capital and KPMG.  More information on the Imagine Chemistry Challenge is available in the BRAG blog post “AkzoNobel Launches Global Chemicals Start-Up Challenge.”

 

By Richard E. Engler, Ph.D.

On April 5, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that Industrial Microbes, Inc. (Industrial Microbes) has been awarded $300,000 in funding through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program to develop a green fermentation platform to replace carbon-emitting petrochemical production with newer methods that use methane and carbon dioxide to produce chemicals.  The project aims to improve the efficiency of chemical manufacturing while limiting pollution using a fermentation process based on engineered enzyme pathways within living cells, similar to the chemical conversion process used to brew beer.  Well-to-gate life cycle analysis of the process demonstrated that carbon dioxide emissions were reduced by six-fold compared to the current production process, due to carbon dioxide fixation and more efficient unit operations.  Industrial Microbes is one of nine small businesses that received a total of nearly $2.7 million in funding through the SBIR Program to develop and commercialize new environmental technologies.


 

On March 6, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced in the Federal Register that an information collection request (ICR) had been submitted to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) regarding consultations on the Safer Choice logo redesign.  Following the launch of the new Safer Choice logo, EPA plans to conduct consumer surveys to gauge consumer recognition of the new logo and to determine whether the new logo and educational activities are changing purchasing decisions.  This ICR was previously published as part of a public review opportunity in the Federal Register on November 3, 2016, and did not receive any comments.  With this Notice, there will be an additional 30 days of review as comments are due by April 5, 2017.    


 

On October 11, 2016, Microvi Biotechnologies Inc. (Microvi) announced that it had been awarded a grant by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for work on new biocatalytic technology that converts the methane and carbon dioxide (CO2) found in biogas into valuable liquid chemicals.  This technology utilizes the biogas created at landfills and wastewater treatment plants that is usually burned off into the atmosphere due to the current burdensome conversion process.  Microvi’s technology is expected to be much more efficient than conventional gas-to-liquid conversion processes, and will produce in-demand chemicals such as biobutanol.


 

On August 14, 2015, the Department of Energy's (DOE) BioEnergy Science Center (BESC) announced the creation of a microbe that increases isobutanol yields by a factor of ten. The study, published in Metabolic Engineering, expanded upon a 2011 study where researchers were able to engineer genetically a microbe to produce isobutanol directly from cellulose. The new study used a higher yielding microbe with similar engineered traits, resulting in consolidated bioprocessing efficiency. This progress towards the commercialization of biobased isobutanol is important because its energy density and octane values are close to those of gasoline, allowing it to be used as either a direct replacement for gasoline or a chemical feedstock for a wide range of products.


 
United, "United Airlines Purchases Stake In Fulcrum BioEnergy With $30 Million Investment"
Microvi, "Innovative Microvi Bio-Ethanol Technology Validated At Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory"
Avantium, "Avantium's PEF Plastic At The EXPO 2015 In Milan"
The Swedish Knowledge Centre for Renewable Transportation Fuels, "New Research Programs For Cheaper And More Efficient Biofuels"
IOPScience: Environmental Research Letters, "Comparative Water Use By Maize, Perennial Crops, Restored Prairie, And Poplar Trees In The US Midwest"
International Renewable Energy Agency, "Renewable Energy Can Unlock Socio-Economic Benefits for Islands, IRENA Reports Find"
International Renewable Energy Agency, "New IRENA Platform Supports Renewable Energy Innovation, Quality and Collaboration"
UPM, "UPM Showcases The Biofore Concept Car At ZELLCHEMING-Expo 2015"
Eco Composites, "Bio Focus At Composites Europe 2015"

The articles featured in "Other News" are drawn from a number of sources and reflect media coverage of biobased and renewable products and companies. An article's inclusion does not imply that BRAG endorses, supports, or verifies its contents or expressed opinions. Factual errors are the responsibility of the listed publication.


 

On May 22, 2015, the California State Assembly passed the Plastic Microbeads Nuisance Prevention Law, a bill designed to ban the use of microbeads in beauty products and prevent the environment harm that occurs when they inevitably end up in waterways. California is not the first state to restrict microbeads as Illinois, Maine, New Jersey, and Colorado have also done so and several other states are in the process of creating bans. The big difference with this legislation is that California is the first state to ban petroleum-based plastic microbeads as well as biodegradable biobased microbeads. Critics of the biobased exception state that there is not enough research into how the biobased beads degrade under different conditions, and state that the bioplastics may still absorb toxic chemicals and introduce them to the food chain. The bill has been moved to the California senate and referred to the Committees on Environmental Quality and Judiciary.


 

On February 10, 2014, Monsanto issued a press release announcing that Monsanto and Novozymes are closing The BioAg Alliance. According to the release, "[t]he announcement follows the satisfaction of relevant closing conditions and the receipt of required regulatory approvals. Both companies will now focus on implementing the long-term strategic alliance. The BioAg Alliance is unique in the industry, bringing together Novozymes' commercial BioAg operations and capabilities within microbial discovery, development and production with Monsanto's microbial discovery, advanced biology, field testing and commercial capabilities. The result will be a comprehensive research, development, and commercial collaboration for sustainable microbial products to help farmers globally meet the challenge of producing more with less -- for the benefit of agriculture, consumers, the environment and society at large." A copy of Monsanto's press release is available online.