BIO Latin America Conference 2016: Innovation, Investors and Institution in new Global Markets
by Laís Forti Thomaz* (Advanced Biofuels USA) Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) promoted its first Latin America Conference in Sao Paulo October 26-28, 2016, co-hosted by Biominas and with the support of the Brazilian Industrial Biotechnology Association (ABBI).
The theme of this event was: “Accessing new global markets”. Innovation, Investors and Institutions were the “three IN” emphasized by Jim Greenwood, President and CEO of BIO in the opening ceremony and many panels highlighted the importance of innovation, industrial property and difficulties of utilizing biomaterials.
The status of E2G and innovation in Brazil
Mainly, Raizen and GranBio have produced cellulosic ethanol in Brazil. Both were represented at BIO Latin America and were able to discuss the challenges and difficulties that they have found on the way to reaching commercial scale: from research and innovations since the pre-treatment of biomass, to the training and qualification of its employees.
Antonio Alberto Stuchi, director at Raízen, stated that the problems they have to face are related to difficulties from integration of equipment from different origins, difficulties of the process, and difficulties in the formation of human resources for this new technological reality.
In a press release, Raízen explained that the company has developed solutions to overcome the technological challenges encountered in the early stages of ethanol production from sugarcane bagasse and straw which is in the cane fields.
These ‘tropicalized’ solutions include the development of more resistant steel materials and alloys, as well as pumps, valves and even a ‘washer’ of biomass impurities. It was also this year that biotech and chemical solutions that were being developed locally reached the production scale.
These domestic strategies enabled the company to produce five times more ethanol than in all of last season. In a cellulosic ethanol plant, the production capacity reached 42 million liters. For the 2017/18 crop, which will start in April next year, the goal is to increase production by 15 million to 20 million liters.
Evident, in the cases of Raizen and GranBio, is the need to encourage more research to overcome these biotechnological challenges. Bernardo Gradin, CEO of GranBio, argued that, “In Brazil, specifically, I think the challenge is our innovation culture – we still have to improve a lot. We see much improvement. BNDES [Brazilian Development Bank], FINEP [Brazilian Funding Authority for Studies and Projects], INPI [Brazilian Patent Office], with a wish to make Brazilian environment, specifically for bioeconomy, an innovative environment.”
He highlighted that besides this willingness to work together and a synergy between the government and industry, there is a long way to go to achieve effective cooperation, with less bureaucracy and more incentives to private and public partnerships.
The representatives of research agencies like Sao Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) and Sugarcane Research Center, known as CTC, and some professors from important Universities in Brazil could illustrate how this cooperation can generate more innovations. Some of them already have specific projects like BIOEN-FAPESP, which have an enormous potential to generate great solutions for these biotechnological challenges.
On the government side, it seems that there is also movement in this sense. Julio Cesar Moreira, Director of Patents at Brazilian Patent Office (INPI), demonstrated how they intend to make the patent process more efficient. Carlos Cavalcanti, head of the Biofuels department at BNDES, argued that Brazil needs public policies that allow investors some sort of stability and cited the role of the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) in the US.
The Below50 Campaign** convened an important panel to promote its initiative to bring together big players. Those on the panel about sustainable fuels included UN Sustainable Energy For All, Roundtable on Sustainable Materials, Novozymes, DSM, GOL airlines.
This campaign was first launched in California in June this year and its purpose is gathering companies that produce, use or invest in fuels that are at least 50% less carbon intensive than conventional fossil fuels. (READ MORE)
It is noteworthy that this campaign gained more relevance in the week the International Energy Agency (IEA) raised its projection of five years to the growth of renewables after the record year of these sources in 2015. IEA argued that this change is due to robust policies in key countries for sources and significant cost reductions. This allowed renewables to surpass coal last year as the source of the bulk of installed capacity in the world. The IEA predicts growth 13% above the previously projected for the period between 2015 and 2021. READ MORE (Biofuels Digest)
* Contributing author, Laís Forti Thomaz, is a Ph.D. in International Relations, Unesp/Unicamp/PUC-SP, São Paulo, Brazil and researcher at National Institute of Science and Technology for Studies on the United States (INCT-INEU)
Photos by L.F.Thomaz