By Lynn L. Bergeson
On September 18, 2019, the D.C. Women’s Business Center (WBC) and the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) will host the 2019 Just Ambitious Small Business Awards. The awards honor woman entrepreneurs who have demonstrated achievements, innovation, and vision in support of the District of Columbia’s small business community and economic vitality. WBC and NCRC are now accepting applications for the 2019 awards in the following categories:
- NCRC Community Engagement of the Year
- NCRC Youth Entrepreneur of the Year
- Environmental Entrepreneur of the Year
- Start-Up of the Year
- Veteran Woman-Owned Business of the Year
- Woman Empowerment Entrepreneur of the Year
- Womanpreneur Under 40 of the Year
Businesses can be nominated for multiple awards. WBC and NCRC encourage self-nominations. To qualify for the award, applicants must either be or nominate a registered business entity that has been in business for at least one full year. The business must be at least 51 percent woman-owned. Non-profits that devote a significant portion of time to assisting entrepreneurs may also apply. The deadline for application submissions is September 4, 2019, by close of business.
On October 18, 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it has opened nominations for the 2017 Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards (PGCCA). Since 1996, these awards have honored companies and institutions that develop processes and products to help protect public health and the environment. EPA’s strong support for the adoption of green chemistry has helped strengthen the development and commercialization of green chemistry products, leading to significant environmental benefits alongside economic benefits. Previous PGCCA winners annually eliminate 826 million pounds of hazardous chemicals and solvents and 7.8 billion pounds of carbon dioxide releases, and save over 21 billion gallons of water. There are six award categories for 2017:
|Focus Area 1: Greener Synthetic Pathways;
|Focus Area 2: Greener Reaction Conditions;
|Focus Area 3: The Design of Greener Chemicals;
|Small Business (for a technology in any of the three focus areas developed by a small business);
|Academic (for a technology in any of the three focus areas developed by an academic researcher); and
||Specific Environmental Benefit: Climate Change (for a technology in any of the three focus areas that reduces greenhouse gas emissions).
Nominations for these awards are due to EPA by December 31, 2016, with more information about the selection criteria and how to enter on the EPA PGCCA website.
On June 21, 2016, DOE announced the 23 projects that were selected for Phase II funding through the Small Business Innovation and Research (SBIR) program. Each SBIR award is for $1 million over the next two years, and helps small businesses advance concepts that improve manufacturing processes, boost efficiency of buildings, increase transportation sustainability, and generate renewable electricity. Phase II winners include:
- Forest Concepts, LLC, for a low energy rotary shear for sub-millimeter particle production that will improve energy balance for advanced biofuels.
- Manta Biofuel, LLC, for development of a high throughput algal dewatering system using magnetic particles.
- MicroBio Engineering, for algal bioflocculation for solid-liquid separation to improve algae harvesting.
On February 1, 2016, the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) announced that nominations for the ninth annual George Washington Carver Award were being accepted. The award recognizes an individual who has contributed to building the biobased economy by creating sustainable, environmentally friendly products through industrial biotechnology. Previous recipients of the award include Ellen Kullman, CEO and Chair of the Board at DuPont and Dr. Jay Keasling, Hubbard Howe Jr. Distinguished Professor of Biochemical Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. Nominations for the George Washington Carver Award are due by midnight (EST) on February 19, 2016.
Nominations are also open for the Rosalind Franklin Award for Leadership in Industrial Biology, honoring a woman who has made significant contributions to the biobased economy and biotech innovation through industrial biotechnology. The BIO Rosalind Franklin Award was created in 2014 with Dr. Debbie Yaver winning the award, and Dr. Jennifer Holmgren, CEO of LanzaTech receiving the award in 2015. Nominations for the Rosalind Franklin Award are due by midnight (EST) on February 19, 2016. Both awards will be presented at the 2016 World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology in San Diego, California, occurring April 17-20, 2016.
The 2016 World Bio Markets Bio Business Awards are now accepting nominations for categories covering people, companies, and projects that have advanced the bioeconomy. The eight categories for the 2016 awards are:
- Biofuels Partnership of the Year;
- Bio-Based Brand of the Year;
- Breakthrough Bio-Based Technology Platform;
- WBM Bio-Based Business Person of the Year;
- Bio-Based Chemical Partnership of the Year;
- WBM Industry Champion 2016;
- Bio-Based Product Innovation of the Year; and
- Biomass Power Project of the Year.
Nominations are due February 19, 2016, and the awards will be presented at the second day of World Bio Markets in Amsterdam on March 15, 2016.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has called for nominations for the 2016 Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards (PGCCA), and companies engaging in green chemistry innovations will want to act quickly as the deadline for nominations is December 31, 2015.
Winning, or even just being nominated for a PGCCA, confers concrete benefits, including increased brand awareness, public relations opportunity, and validation of your product or process by green chemistry stakeholders.
To be eligible for an award, a technology must:
- Be a green chemistry technology with a significant chemistry component;
- Include source reduction (i.e., pollution prevention at the source);
- Have an eligible sponsor (e.g., be a company or non-government organization);
- Have a significant U.S. component;
- Have a significant milestone in its development in the past five years; and
- Fit within one of the three focus areas:
- Greener Synthesis, including greener feedstocks and reagents, more efficient syntheses, and greener catalysts;
- Greener Reaction Conditions, including greener solvents, solvent-free reactions, and greener analytic methods; or
- Designing Greener Chemicals, where the product itself is less hazardous than the incumbent technology.
In addition to awards in each of the focus areas, there are three special award categories:
- Small business; and
- Specific Environmental Benefit: Climate Change.
Awards in these categories may be in any of the three focus areas as long as they also meet the criteria for the specific category.
Nominating your process or product is an opportunity to tell the story of your technology. You probably already have documents that can form the basis for a nomination, so you will not need to start from scratch. Even if you do not win, EPA typically publicizes the non-winning technologies.
If you have been nominated in the past and not won, as long as your technology is still within five years of a significant milestone, EPA actually encourages you to re-nominate it for an award. If re-nominating, it is advisable to take the opportunity to strengthen your nomination.
On November 4, 2015, EPA announced a request for nominations for the 21st Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award (PGCCA). The PGCCA is sponsored by EPA and the American Chemical Society Green Chemistry Institute®. Over the 21 years of the challenge, EPA has recognized 104 new technologies that have saved water, reduced carbon dioxide emissions, and reduced the use of many hazardous chemicals and solvents. There are seven award areas covering greener synthetic pathways, greener reaction conditions, greener chemical products, the design of greener chemicals, small business, academic, and specific environmental benefit: climate change. Nominations are due to EPA by December 31, 2015, and will be awarded in June of 2016. Read BRAG's coverage of the 20th PGCCA winners.
On September 15, 2015, the EPA Inspector General (IG) released a report criticizing EPA's use of unverified pollution prevention data for the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award (PGCCA). The report, "EPA's Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards Program Lacks Adequate Support and Transparency and Should Be Assessed for Continuation," states that EPA does not verify the validity of the self-reported pollution prevention results of award applicants or differentiate between domestic and international pollution prevention. The IG states that self-reported data risk misrepresenting the true accomplishments and impacts of the award winners and that EPA should not use the self-reported data in its pollution prevention performance metrics until it is able to ensure data quality. In a September 16 story on the IG's report, Bloomberg BNA reported that "EPA's chemical safety and pollution prevention office agreed with three of the inspector's recommendations including developing a process to track the long-term benefits of the innovations it recognizes. The office disagreed with the remaining six recommendations and provided examples of ways it said it already is meeting some of the report's goals, such as integrating the award program's activities to other pollution-prevention actions."
The 12th Annual World Congress On Industrial Biotechnology was held by the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) on July 19-22, 2015, in Montréal. Lynn L. Bergeson offered opening remarks at the Women in Industrial Biotechnology Reception, sponsored by BRAG, and spoke on the importance of continuing to fight for gender equality for women working in science and other fields. Ms. Bergeson also opened the Renewable Chemicals and Biobased Materials track, in which Richard E. Engler, Ph.D. presented "TSCA and the Regulation of Biofuels" and "Leveraging 'Green' for Visibility."
Dr. Jennifer Holmgren, CEO of LanzaTech, was presented the Rosalind Franklin Award for Leadership in Industrial Biotechnology at the BIO World Congress. The award celebrates a pioneering woman in the industrial biotechnology sector who has made significant contributions to the advancement of the biobased economy and biotech innovation in honor of Rosalind Franklin. Over 15 female leaders were nominated for the award, and Dr. Holmgren was selected as a result of her work as CEO of LanzaTech, a company that is developing the world's first alternative jet fuel from industrial waste gases using intermediates derived through industrial biotechnology. LanzaTech also won the 2015 Greener Synthetic Pathways Award as part of the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge for the novel use of waste gas to produce fuel. Dr. Holmgren's work in the advancement of industrial biotechnology was determined to embody the spirit of Rosalind Franklin and her pioneering role in the biotechnology field.
On July 13, 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the winners of the 20th Annual Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards (PGCCA) and honored them at a ceremony at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C. The PGCCAs were created in partnership with the American Chemical Society Green Chemistry Institute® and other members of the chemical community to promote the environmental and economic benefits of green chemistry. The six different categories for the 2015 PGCCAs are: Greener Synthetic Pathways, Greener Reaction Conditions, The DESIGN OF Greener Chemicals, Small Business, Academic, and Specific Environmental Benefit: Climate Change.
The winners of the 2015 PGCCAs include Algenol, for the development of algae to produce fuels; Hybrid Coating Technologies/Nanotech Industries, for the development of a plant-based polyurethane; LanzaTech, for the development of a process that produces fuels and chemicals from waste gas; Soltex, for the development of a reaction process that reduces hazardous chemicals and eliminates water from the production of lubricant and gasoline additives; Renmatix, for the development of a more efficient process to break down plant materials to produce renewable chemicals and fuels; and Professor Eugene Chen from Colorado State University, for developing a waste and metal-free process to turn plant-based materials into fuel and chemicals.
Renmatix seems to have finally cracked the nut that is lignocellulosic biomass. Unlike starch and sugars, plant stalks and wood are quite resistant to rapid biologic action. As a result, most biobased chemical and biofuel producers rely on starch or sugar (e.g., corn starch or sugar cane). The key problem is how to break down quickly lignocellulose into its constituents (lignin, cellulose, and hemicellulose) then break the cellulose and hemicellulose into fermentable sugars. A number of biotechnology companies have been developing enzymes or organisms to deconstruct lignocellulose. Renmatix took a much simpler approach: use the unique properties of water at elevated temperatures to deconstruct lignocellulose into fermentable sugars and lignin in a matter of seconds, instead of days, for biochemical processes. The Renmatix reactor system is robust enough to tolerate a wide variety of lignocellulose, including hardwood, agricultural residue, energy crops, and municipal solid waste, making it ideal for deploying wherever lignocellulosic biomass is plentiful and inexpensive. Renmatix and its partners expect that sugars from the Plantrose® process will significantly reduce the cost of producing chemicals via fermentation from non-food biomass.
LanzaTech has a different approach to biotechnology. Instead of using fermentable sugars, LanzaTech employs extremophiles to convert waste flue gases, rich in carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, to fuels and chemicals. By employing microbes found on deep sea hydrothermal vents and some creative engineering to ensure robust mixing of the gases and the fermentation broth, LanzaTech can produce ethanol or 2,3-butanediol from the smokestack emissions of industrial facilities. The extremophiles are tolerant of conditions that would be toxic to most industrial fermentation microorganisms, giving LanzaTech a robust and flexible platform from which to produce chemicals and fuels.
Algenol's ethanol producing algae is the first photosynthetic algae technology to win a PGCCA. Algenol has developed a multi-pronged approach to biofuel production by algae. First, the cyanobacteria algae are grown in saltwater -- freshwater is not required -- in specially designed photobioreactors that minimize contamination and water use, and maximize sunlight usage. As the algae grow, they produce ethanol, up to 20 times the per-acre yield of corn-based ethanol. When the algae die, the biomass is converted to a liquid fuel they call "green crude." It is somewhat analogous to the natural process that converts fossil biomass to petroleum, but on a much faster time scale. This use of the waste biomass and very efficient processing contribute to a very low carbon footprint.
Soltex is recognized for its development of an alternative to liquid boron trifluoride (BF3) in the production of "highly reactive" polyisobutylene (HR-PIB). HR-PIB is a key building block for a variety of specialty chemicals, including fuel additives, lubricants, and elastomers and specialty rubbers. The incumbent reaction requires that BF3 be injected continuously into the reactor with high purity isobutylene. Immediately after the reaction, the BF3 must be neutralized and the resulting salt is removed with significant amounts of water. The neutralized BF3 cannot be recycled and is disposed of as waste. Soltex's alternative attaches the BF3 to inorganic beads that are packed in a fixed bed. When the isobutylene passes over the beads, it polymerizes to HR-PIB. Unlike the incumbent process, the Soltex process does not require high purity isobutylene; the HR-PIB comes out in high purity with no residual acid that needs to be neutralized or washed. The process is wastewater-free, saving ten million gallons of water per year for each plant producing polyisobutylene. It also requires much less BF3, in part because the catalyst is more efficient, but also because the catalyst can be reused many times. Less liquid BF3 means fewer opportunities for accidents during manufacturing, transportation, transfer, and use.
Hybrid Coating Technologies and Nanotech Industries have partnered to bring polyurethanes to market without the associated hazards of diisocyanates. These hybrid non-isocyanate polyurethanes (HNIPU) can be used in highly durable polyurethane coatings. Traditional polyurethanes are made by reacting diisocyanates with polyols. Diisocyantes are well known and have well understood hazards, including irritation, lung damage, and occupational asthma (and associated anaphylaxis), and may be carcinogenic. Polyurethanes are so advantageous that they are used despite these hazards, just used with special care to protect workers and end-users. The HNIPU provides the benefits of polyurethanes without the hazards associated with traditional diisocyanates.
Professor Eugene Chen of Colorado State University is recognized for his work on condensation reactions. Condensation reactions are some of the most widely used reactions for chemical production. The catalyst developed by Professor Chen and his group improves the atom efficiency of condensation reactions, that is, it maximizes the atoms that are incorporated into the desired products. High atom efficiency minimizes waste of all kinds simply because more of the starting material becomes product. Professor Chen's group can use a variety of common biobased monomers to make polyester and acrylic polymers. One of the potential polymers is then easily depolymerized back into the starting monomer, bringing significant hope to the circular economy.
Notable in many of these and other recent PGCCAs is that the technologies rely on waste or biomass, rather than non-renewable resources. This reflects the growing success and maturity of companies that rely on renewable materials to make an increasingly diverse set of products.
The Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge has recognized over 100 technologies since its inception in 1996, and each year all of the winning technologies have reduced the use of hazardous chemicals and solvents by over 800 million pounds, saved 21 billion gallons of water, and prevented 7.8 billion pounds of carbon dioxide equivalents from being released into the air.