The 7th NRW PhD Day on 20 October 2022 took place in Düsseldorf with around 50 participants from a wide range of disciplines and regional universities. The excellent presentations by the invited speakers gave the PhD students insights into companies, development processes, but also personal career paths and decisions. It became clear how far-reaching the relevance of the topic "Scaling in the bioeconomy," which was the focus of this year's PhD Day, is for science and business.
This year's opening address was given by Dr. Sonja Brandt from the Ministry of Culture and Science NRW. She addressed the PhD students very directly and clearly pointed out the potential of the bioeconomy as a future working field, but also the importance of networking and taking advantage of diverse, existing opportunities for professional development. The first two presentations of the day were related to the agri-food sector and were given by Dr. Grégoire Hummel (Phenospex) and Dr Timo Koch (SAVANNA Ingredients). Grégoire Hummel gave a very impressive presentation of the development of his company, which deals with imaging methods in plant phenotyping, from his own doctoral thesis as a crystallisation point for the foundation to a solvent and internationally active company. Timo Koch's lecture, on the other hand, showed how the internal innovation potential of a large corporation like Pfeifer & Langen can be promoted through spin-offs. SAVANNA Ingredients primarily analyses unusual sugars from sugar beet for use in the food sector and develops them to be market ready.
In the second session of the day, new biotechnological developments were presented. Dr. Jannis Bröker, representing the company BluCon, presented an innovative approach for the production of polylactide from agricultural residual streams for the production of novel, biobased and biodegradable plastics. Dr. Ricarda Finnern, CSO of the company LenioBio, presented an innovative system for cell-free protein expression based on plant cell cultures, which is particularly suitable for the expression of complex, also pharmaceutical proteins and offers optimal scaling potential.
The last session was about biotechnological process optimisation and scaling. Dr Jens Bitzer from Lanxess/IMD Natural Solutions showed the long way from the identification of an interesting glycolipid from fungi to biotechnological production on a large scale and the necessary optimisation steps along the way. The round of presentations was concluded by Dr. Martin Lindmeyer from the company Yncoris, which supports other companies in scaling their processes to the respective next stage towards large-scale production.
The breaks provided plenty of time for discussion and networking. The PhD students, the speakers and the coordinators of the organising organisations and graduate schools had ample opportunity to discuss relevant issues of the bioeconomy, personal professional development and the skills needed in the bioeconomy. These questions were also focused on again in the concluding panel round with the speakers. As in the presentations, it became clear here that many different career paths can lead into the bio-based industry. Thus, the goal of the NRW Doctoral Students' Day was once again achieved this year to bring together young doctoral researchers from different scientific fields and locations in NRW and to offer them a framework for networking and discussion about future developments and career paths in the bioeconomy.
Photos: Forschungszentrum Jülich