On 28th November 2017, the 2nd International BioSC Symposium, organised by the Bioeconomy Science Centre (BioSC), took place in Cologne and bundled different expertises on the topic "Towards an integrated Bioeconomy". Around 160 participants were attracted by national, European and international speakers and researchers from the BioSC network, contributing their perspectives and recent research results concerning the bioeconomy.
The high potential and different opportunities of the bioeconomy were highlighted in the vividly presented keynote of Prof. Lene Lange of the Technical University of Denmark. She pointed out that one should not only look for the big one to one substitutions but highlighted the relevance of different types of smaller and local biorefineries and cascading concepts. She added recent research results on the development of relevant enzymes, conversion processes and strategies for product development.
The sessions started with the introduction of the interdisciplinary research concepts of the BioSC FocusLabs (AP³, Bio², CombiCom, HyImPAct and greenRelease) as cornerstones of an integrated bioeconomy in NRW. These projects either started in spring 2017 or will begin in January 2018. The different consortia are working on sustainable agricultural solutions and biobased biorefinery concepts providing different biomolecules, e.g. biosurfactants, with potential applications as agrochemicals or pharmaceuticals.
The following sessions reflected socioeconomic perspectives, strategies for plant production and resource management and green value chains.
Dr. Johanna Kohl from the VTT Technical Research Center of Finland informed about the needs to develop a holistic bioeconomy strategy and technology roadmap considering the understanding of current societal, industrial and consumer needs and aims, but also the technology readiness level of current and future technologies to discover the full bioeconomical potential, visualized in a case study for South Australia. Dr. Frank Tietze, research group leader at the Centre for Technology Management at the University of Cambridge pointed out, that the transformation to a sustainable bioeconomy relies on collaborative work and cumulative innovation and explained the potential role of OpenIP models. Laura Borge, PhD Student at the University of Bonn, completed the socioeconomic Session by putting the light on special challenges of effectiveness of technology transfer in the settings of the bioeconomy.
Concerning the improvement of Plant Performance, Dr. Anette Wensing from the Julius Kühn Institute in Dossenheim explained the importance of their research on the cultivation and breeding of pest resistant crop varieties, for example for preventing apple trees of fire blight infection, as most sustainable form of plant protection. Prof. Jochen Büchs, head of the chair of Bioprocess Engineering at RWTH Aachen, presented an alternative promising eco-friendly crop protection method out of the BioSC project PrimACs of substituting synthetic agrochemicals by sustainable chemicals that prime the plant immune system for a better pest and disease control. Dario Leister, Professor at the Chair of Plant Molecular Biology and Botany at the LMU Munich, talked about the importance of understanding the natural photosynthetic light reactions and the role of synthetic biology that might allow the redesign or de novo creation of entire, more efficient photosystems that are less susceptible to photodamage and producing fewer harmful reactive oxygen species.
The BioSC project PectiLyse provides an example of dealing with Green Value Chains, presented by Markus Müller, PhD student at the RWTH Aachen University. The project aims at using pectin derived substrates for itaconic acid production by Ustilago maydis. The presentation especially highlighted the Respiration Activity Monitoring System (RAMOS) for the characterization of shake flask cultivations, where enzyme activity, even at low level, can be quantified by the course of the oxygen transfer rate (OTR). Dr. Eric Déziel of the Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique in Canada presented new solutions for the production of promising biosurfactants, namely rhamnolipids, which present many advantages like low toxicity, enhanced biodegradability and better social acceptability. Still a big challenge is the use of non-pathogenic natural producers of rhamnolipids, where the Burkholderia genus is currently investigated for suitable candidates. Dr. Michael Zavrel introduced Clariant’s sunliquid® technology for example for the production of ethanol, which offers an economically competitive one-stop shop solution flexible to be used to convert different feedstocks and adopt to various plants concepts combining high process yields with low OPEX and CAPEX. In September 2018 a license agreement has been signed with the Slovakian company Enviral for the cellulosic ethanol technology.
This year, a poster session was part of the the BioSC Symposium for the first time and the best posters were awarded concerning interdisciplinarity, research results and poster presentation. Winner of the poster prices were Dr. Alexandra Wormit with her colleagues for their research in the project “InducTomE: Induction of secondary metabolites in tomato by-products for extraction and economic evaluation of the model process”, Martin G. Höller and coworkers for the research on “Silphium perfoliatum and Sida hermaphrodita as raw material for the paper and building industry” and Dr. Felix Jakob with the project team working on “Bifunctional Microgel-Based Fertilizers for controlled Foliar Delivery of Nutrients to Plants”.
The conference impressively reflected the need for an integrated approach to the field of bioeconomy and successfully provided a platform for interdisciplinary scientific discussion and future cooperation. The 3rd international BioSC Symposium is already in its planning phase. Further information will follow.