Industrial or White Biotechnology - A driver of sustainable growth in Europe

05.08.2011

European Technology Platform for Sustainable Chemistry

Industrial or White Biotechnology is the application of biotechnology for the processing and production of chemicals, materials and energy. White biotechnology uses enzymes and micro-organisms to make products in sectors such as chemistry, food and feed, paper and pulp, textiles and energy. White Biotechnology could provide new chances to the chemical industry by allowing easy access to building blocks and materials that were only accessible before via intricate routes or not at all. White Biotechnology will have a considerable impact by using biomass as an alternative to fossil resources for the production of biochemicals such as biofuels and biopolymers. The use of renewable raw materials as alternative feedstock will reduce consumption of the limited fossil resources and lower European dependence on imports. Consequently this could contribute to our meeting of the Kyoto protocol targets for reductions in carbon dioxide emissions because of a more favorable CO 2 balance. At the same time, this technology may also boost the rural economy by providing new markets for agricultural crops and through the development of integrated biorefineries in farming areas. It needs to be guaranteed that raw materials can be bought at the cheapest price all over the world.

White biotechnology processes can help to make industrial manufacturing processes more environmentally friendly. They are performed in a contained environment, and have the potential to produce high yields of specific products with low energy use and minimal waste generation. The potential of white biotechnology is very promising and it is expected that white biotechnology will be a key technology contributing to the achievement of the Lisbon strategy to make Europe the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world. Also EUs major trading partners recognize the importance of white or industrial biotechnology for their industrial base and have already put in place well-funded long-term strategic plans. In the light of this, the following vision for white biotechnology has been established.

The stakeholders recognise that this Vision will only become a reality with the appropriate enabling political and economical environment stimulating research and innovation, entrepreneurship, product approval and market development. Such a supporting environment will help the industries to switch and produce eco-efficient products - when economically feasible – and benefit from the broad potential of white biotechnology to the European industry. In this type of activity it is of paramount importance to carry out extensive and careful life cycle analysis of the new developments and to compare it with alternative ones, since only a real eco-efficient technology can be implemented in a sustainable fashion.

Our vision for industrial or white biotechnology in 2025:

  • An increasing number of chemicals and materials will be produced using biotechnology in one of its processing steps. Biotechnological processes are used for producing chemicals and materials, otherwise not accessible by conventional means, or existing products in a more efficient and sustainable way. 
  • Biotechnology allows for an increasing eco-efficient use of renewable resources as raw materials for the industry
  • Industrial biotechnology will enable a range of industries to manufacture products in an economically and environmentally sustainable way.
  • Biomass derived energy, based on biotechnology, is expected to cover an increasing amount of our energy consumption.
  • Rural biorefineries will replace port-based oil refineries wherever it is economically feasible.
  • European industry will be innovative and competitive, with sustained cooperation and support between the research community, industry, agriculture and civil society.
  • Green Biotechnology could make a substantial contribution to the efficient production of biomass raw materials.

The action plan necessary to achieve this vision includes:

  • The development of a strategic research agenda and road map.
  • The removal of technical, economic, regulatory and implementation barriers.
  • The involvement of the society in decision making via stakeholder dialogue