Research • Educate • Connect
Towards a sustainable bioeconomy

Research • Educate • Connect
Towards a sustainable bioeconomy

7th International BioSC Symposium "Bio-based solutions for a sustainable economy"

6 - 7 November 2023 | LVR Landesmuseum, Bonn

The International BioSC Symposium, a platform for inter- and transdisciplinary exchange for a sustainable bioeconomy, once again covered a broad spectrum of topics this year. Around 130 participants from academia and industry, civil society and politics discussed current topics and developments, from primary production and the development of new products and concepts to sustainability assessment and social transformation. The presentations and discussions were complemented by 39 posters, three of which were awarded prizes.

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Ulrich Schurr (Forschungszentrum Jülich) welcomed the guests, including Christian Paterman, the founder of the knowledge-based bioeconomy in Europe. Andreas Stahl (Julius Kühn Institute, Quedlinburg) gave the keynote lecture for the first day. He began by discussing the goals for sustainable plant production formulated in the European Green Deal and the EU Farm2Fork strategy. Then he demonstrated the importance of genetic resources for these goals using examples from plant breeding for more efficient nitrogen and water use, increased disease and pest resistance and adaptation of neglected crops.

In Session I "Challenges of sustainable primary production", Thomas Kastner (Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre, Frankfurt/Main) highlighted the ecological side of primary production, in particular the global biomass metabolism, including human production and consumption of biomass products, as well as the availability of land and the effects of land use changes. Jorge Sellare (Center for Development Research, University of Bonn) introduced the Five action tracks for sustainable agri-food systems adopted at the UN Food System Summit 2021 and explained the contribution of bioeconomy innovations using the examples of organic plant fortifiers, plant-based meat substitutes, biofortified crops and biofuels. Nina Siebers (Forschungszentrum Jülich) presented the BioSC project NewBIAS for the improvement of agricultural soils using biochar. The project is establishing the production of biochar from used Miscanthus substrate from horticulture and investigating how nutrients can be recovered from manure and how the application of biochar affects soil quality and plant growth.

In Session II "Sufficient, healthy, eco-friendly - meeting future food demands", Hans-Jürgen Danneel (TH Ostwestfalen-Lippe) discussed the perspectives for obtaining and utilising alternative proteins for food and animal feed. He impressively demonstrated that there is sufficient so far unutilised plant protein available for this purpose, for example from side streams of oil, starch and sugar production. However, suitable extraction and processing methods and new value chains need to be established. Katharina Miebach (RWTH Aachen University) presented the BioSC project NextVegOil, which aims to produce a substitute for palm oil using microbial fermentation of maize straw. The fatty acid profile of the microbial oil can be specifically varied and tailored to the respective application. In the project, an oil for vegan milk substitute products is to be produced and tested by an industrial partner. Kerstin Pasch (German Institute of Food Technology, Office Brussels) presented innovative processes for the modular and mobile processing of fruit and vegetables that are successfully used in regional value creation. They were developed as part of the EU projects Fox and ZeroW and offered starting points for start-up companies that are supported and advised by the DIL Innovation Hub.

After rounding off the first day with a networking dinner in the rooms of the LVR Landesmuseum, the second day was opened by Sonja Brandt, MKW NRW, and Christian Feiler, MWIKE NRW. In their welcome addresses, both recognised the importance of the BioSC for bioeconomy research in North Rhine-Westphalia and beyond.

The keynote lecture for the second day was given by Thomas Brück (TU Munich), member of the German National Bioeconomy Council. He reported on various approaches from synthetic biotechnology to produce chemicals and materials from CO2, based on the development of oil-producing photoautotrophic and heterotrophic microbial platform organisms. These enable the production of biofuels, polymers and carbon fibres based on CO2.

In Session III "Constructing, clothing, packaging - New bio-based materials", Inga Wehmeyer and Thomas Baranowski (Ford Research & Advanced Engineering Europe) presented the EU project Comp0live. The project focussed on the upgrading of waste cuttings from the olive oil industry into new bio-based composite materials that could potentially replace around 40% of the polypropylene used in car manufacturing. The first prototypes have already been tested by Ford. Sascha Schriever (RWTH Aachen University) presented the BioSC project LignoTex, in which a process chain for the production of textile fibres from lignin is being developed, from extraction and the spinning of lignin-based fibres to the possible applications in textiles and composites, as well as the market potential. Markus Biesalski (TU Darmstadt) reported on new paper materials whose properties can be customised using functional biogenic materials such as polysaccharides, fatty acids, wax and shellac. Recycling is not impaired and the biopolymer additives are biodegradable.

Session IV "Teaming up with biology - Next-generation chemistry" was opened by Gerd Unkelbach from UPM Biochemicals. In Leuna, the company is building the world's first large-scale biorefinery based on sustainably sourced hardwood. Gerd Unkelbach illustrated the production of wood-based chemicals from various perspectives, including the utilisation of the lignin fraction for the production of a renewable functional filler (RFF). Till Tiso (RWTH Aachen University) presented the BioSC project SurfIn and emphasised the great potential of new (bio)surfactants and the need for efficient bioprocesses. In the project, a production process for Serrawettin W1 and Liamocin is being established, from the development of production strains and cultivation conditions to downstream processing and the analysis of technology implementation and market integration. Sandy Schmidt (Groningen Research Institute of Pharmacy) presented the ConCO2rde project, in which the ability of microorganisms to grow on CO2 as a carbon source and the combination of biocatalysis with photocatalysis are used to expand the chemical repertoire beyond what is currently possible with enzymes. The development of chassis strains and process engineering should increase the competitiveness of these autotrophic biotechnological processes.

A total of 39 posters on bioeconomy research topics were presented in two poster sessions, three of which were honoured with the Poster Award at the end of the event: Philipp Sowa (HHU Düsseldorf) with "Valuable compounds from lupin plant resource side streams", Andreas Schieder (Fraunhofer IGB, Straubing) with "Chicken Feather Keratin - a Valuable Source for Polythiol Building Blocks" and Johanna Rütt (RWTH Aachen University) with "Using miscanthus and biochar as sustainable substrates in horticulture: An economic and environmental assessment of their primary and cascading values". The prizes were presented by jury members Stephan Noack and Anika Wiese-Klinkenberg (Forschungszentrum Jülich).

With the closing remarks, Markus Pauly (HHU Düsseldorf) concluded a successful event with many opportunities for dialogue and networking. The next International BioSC Symposium is supposed to take place in 2024.

Photos: Forschungszentrum Jülich