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World Congress Talks Renewable Chemicals, Honors Steen Riisgaard

May 2, 2012
At BIO’s 9th Annual World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology & Bioprocessing, BIO awarded Steen Riisgaard, Novozymes President and CEO, with its 2012 George Washington Carver Award honoring the vision of Carver, an originator of the “chemurgy” movement who, more than a century ago, achieved world renown by combining agriculture and science to produce everyday biobased products, changing the nature of farm economics and sustainability. Industrial biotechnology is the modern-day equivalent, combining biotech innovations with renewable biomass to create solutions that can revitalize manufacturing and energy.

Steen’s innovation and commitment to research in renewable chemicals has revolutionized industrial biotechnology today, said Brent Erickson, executive vice president of BIO's Industrial & Environmental Section. He added that Steen demonstrated a tireless dedication to finding new enzymes that reduced cost and increased effectiveness advancing the industry as he was extremely committed to sustainability and an ardent believer in promoting innovation.

Riisgaard accepted the award saying it wasn’t just him, but all of his employees at Novozymes that should share in this honor. He said the world is just beginning to realize how much it needs industrial biotech with an ever-increasing population adding pressure for people of the world to enjoy clean water, safe housing, food and energy as resources dwindle. He sees industrial biotech as the solution, and believes in five to 10 years, this industry can transform world society with its technology the same way that ag biotech transformed farming.

Renewable chemicals continued to be a focus of the conference in an afternoon breakout sessioncalled “Building Blocks to Consumer Products.” Moderated by Steve Tuttle of the Dow Chemical Company, panelists included representatives from GevoCoca-Cola CompanyEcoSynthetix, and XLTerra, a subsidiary of Reluceo.

Gevo’s Bob Bernacki highlighted the end markets of their isobutanol production including solvents, coatings, materials, plastics and fibers. Isobutanol is naturally occurring and has applications as a drop-in product that should allow customers to replace petroleum-derived raw materials with isobutanol-derived raw materials without modification to their equipment or production processes. Coca Cola showcased their PlantBottle technology, which is a packaging approach that replaces up to 30 percent of the PET in bottles with plant-based materials. The goal is to eventually create a bottle from 100 percent plant materials, and Coca Cola plans to replace its entire line of plastic bottles with PlantBottles by 2020.

Ecosynthetix specializes in using renewable chemicals to produce a broad range of biobased end products including adhesives, paints, coatings, ink resins and surfactants. They have used their EcoStix technology to develop adhesives and labels, including an ecostamp, that offer total biodegradability. XL Terrais developing high performance renewable engineering bioplastic (PXLK). PXLK plastics will have exceptional performance, be devoid of toxins and be sustainably produced.

Bernacki summed up the benefits of renewable chemicals and industrial biotech processes well saying, “To get environmentally cleaner products, you start with a cleaner process.”