By George: BIO Announces Feike Sijbesma its 2011 George Washington Carver Award Recipient

BIO has named Feike Sijbesma as the recipient of its 2011 George Washington Carver Award for innovation in industrial biotechnology.

A panel selected the Royal DSM CEO for leading his company's efforts to promote bio-based products over those relying on fossil-fuel resources. Sijbesma will receive the award and deliver a keynote address during a May 9 plenary lunch session at the BIO World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology & Bioprocessing. The conference is being held at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

"I am truly honored to receive the 2011 George Washington Carver Award for contributing to the progress and innovation of the industrial applications of biotechnology," Sijbesma said. "I am convinced that in the coming decades biotechnology will have an enormous contribution in addressing the worldwide issues around health, nutrition and environment."

The award is named after Carver, one of the founding fathers of the chemurgy movement, a branch of applied chemistry focused on preparing industrial products from raw agricultural materials. Biotechnology is the modern-day equivalent, and the award honors individuals for carrying on Carver’s legacy.

"The field has developed in ways that Carver may never have imagined, but the work of industrial biotech companies remains true to the goal of a sustainable bio-economy," says Brent Erickson, executive vice president of BIO's Industrial & Environmental Section.

Royal DSM wants to speed the transition to a bio-economy, a global approach to manufacturing and living based on resources derived from biotechnology as opposed to fossil fuels.

"At Royal DSM, we are committed to make a lasting and sustainable difference to the world in which we live," Sijbesma elaborated. "Biotechnology will enable us to combine our knowledge of life sciences with materials sciences to provide brighter lives for people today and generations to come."

The company's work emphasizes three main areas. The first is developing alternative fuels. A new enzyme and yeast technology created by Royal DSM has made second-generation biofuel — fuel derived from plants grown on land that is not suitable for food cultivation — a commercially viable resource for the first time.

Second, the company has partnered with Roquette, a French starch and starch derivatives company, to make bio-succinic acid. Bio-succinic acid is a key chemical building block in producing foods, resins and polymers; its use eliminates the need for the hydrocarbon ingredients traditionally used in these products.

Last, Royal DSM is attempting to develop plastics that produce a much lower eco footprint. Included in their growing portfolio of bio-based industrial products is EcoPaXX, a high-grade engineering plastic made from castor beans. This product, and others like it, can be used in the toughest settings and outperforms traditional alternatives in terms of durability and functionality.