Research • Educate • Connect
Towards a sustainable bioeconomy

Research • Educate • Connect
Towards a sustainable bioeconomy

BioSC International Online Summer School „From plants to pilot plant“

The BioSC International Summer School took place from 24-28 August 2020 as a virtual format with participants from all over Europe. Scientists from RWTH Aachen University, Forschungszentrum Jülich and Campus Kleinaltendorf (University of Bonn) as well as lecturers from business and industry gave lectures on the utilization of lignocellulosic biomass - from sustainable plant biomass production and processing in biorefineries to the evaluation of economic efficiency and sustainability. Workshops with case studies rounded off the program. The program opened with an introduction to the bioeconomy by Dr. Christian Patermann.

„Bioeconomy and Circular Economy are partners for sustainability“, said Dr. Dr. h.c. Christian Patermann, former director of the EU Commission, who has played a key role in establishing the bioeconomy in Europe. In his opening lecture, he outlined the development of the past 15 years with the implementation of meanwhile more than 60 national bioeconomy strategies worldwide, the increased focus on sustainability and circular economy in recent years and the current trend of the development of regional bioeconomies.

This provided a comprehensive framework for the topic of the Summer School, the utilization of lignocellulosic biomass. Holger Klose (Forschungszentrum Jülich) started the event with a lecture on new technologies for plant phenotyping and their application for a sustainable production of biomass plants. Onno Muller (Forschungszentrum Jülich) went into detail about the interaction of plant characteristics, environmental factors, experiments and sensors in phenotyping. Silvia Schrey (Forschungszentrum Jülich) closed the day with an introduction to the cultivation of Sida hermaphrodita on marginal soils.

On the second day of the Summer School the first step of processing plant biomass was focused on: fractionation into its main components lignin, cellulose and hemicellulose. Holger Klose explained why this step is a challenge: plant cell walls have developed in evolution in such a way that they are maximally resistant to degradation, e.g. by pests or weather. Philipp Grande (Forschungszentrum Jülich) presented various strategies for fractionation. Martin Leipnitz (RWTH Aachen) explained process development for a biorefinery. This was also the topic of the following workshop "Downstream processing", in which the participants had the opportunity to design process sequences in small groups.

On the third day, the focus was on the fermentative production of high-quality chemicals from plant sugars and their subsequent purification. Michael Zavrel (Clariant company) presented possibilities for the utilization of agricultural waste streams. Michael Kopf (BASF) spoke about the challenges involved in the purification of biobased products. Afterwards, Jörn Viell (RWTH Aachen University) gave a virtual tour through the pilot biorefinery of the Aachen Process Engineering Department. At the "Upstream Processing" workshop in the afternoon, the participants had again the opportunity to put what they had heard into practice in small groups.

Day four shifted the focus from the development of technologies to the evaluation of their sustainability and profitability. In the morning, Christina Wulf and Andreas Schonhoff (Forschungszentrum Jülich) presented methods for assessing sustainability. In the afternoon session, Sandra Venghaus (Forschungszentrum Jülich) presented concepts for the transformation of the Rheinische Revier into an exemplary bioeconomy. Michaels Carus (nova-Institut) and Meike Henseleit (Forschungszentrum Jülich) gave presentations on the perspectives of the bioeconomy in Germany. In the Business Model Workshop that followed, it was again possible to illustrate what had been learned in small groups using concrete cases. On the evening of the fourth day, a joint virtual dinner was held, at which all participants prepared typical city or country dishes or drinks and presented them to the others. In this way more personal contacts could be established and deepened.

On the last day of the Summer School three major projects of the BioSC were presented: FocusLabs AP3, Bio2 and Transform2Bio. These served as case studies to illustrate how important an interdisciplinary approach is already at the research level. At the final wrap-up, all participants expressed that the holistic perspective provided in this Summer School had given them new insights and a better understanding of the bio-economy.