Overcoming hurdles for innovation in industrial biotechnology in Europe France Workshop Report

Overcoming hurdles for innovation in industrial biotechnology in Europe France Workshop Report

Main topic: Regional profiles
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Framework project: The Industrial Biotech Research and Innovation Platforms Centre - towards Technological Innovation and solid foundations for a growing industrial biotech sector in Europe
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Website link: http://industrialbiotech-europe.eu/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/France-Workshop-Report.pdf
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The eighth and last BIO-TIC regional workshop was held at the Espace Seforex, Paris, France on 13th February 2014 and brought together a small group of 16 participants to discuss the potential for IB, to identify hurdles and enablers, and to suggest novel mechanisms by which IB uptake could be facilitated in France. In spite of the small number of participants, the discussion was productive and a certain number of
French specificities were clarified. Industry, academia and policy were proportionally equally represented. The workshop participants were relatively realistic or even optimistic about the growth potential for IB. The pivotal role of costs and the subsequent actions to undertake to create a true market for biobased products was primarily highlighted. Indeed, depending on the cost of biobased products, either marketing or political support can be needed. The necessity to overcome market entry barriers was similarly of high concern for the French audience. However, the environmental awareness of consumers is expected to rise in time, generating a window of opportunity for biobased products. In terms of chemical building blocks, especially C4 chemicals are projected to require biobased production due to recent shale gas developments.
Even if technological improvements were not considered as the main requirements for IB market uptake, certain aspects related to R&D are still problematic. In accordance with the overall opinion that the cost of biobased products is crucial, the participants of the French workshop acknowledged that in light of the price pressure, it is essential to work with excellent feedstock supply, optimal bioconversion and optimum downstream processing to enable the recovery of products. Currently, downstream processing is the main cost driver for biobased products because it represents up to 2/3 of the total production costs. Breakthrough technologies are also required to drastically improve bioconversion yields. In order to do so, it was for instance advised to use synthetic enzymes or to immobilize cells. Further R&D needs are: support for initial scale-up processes and an ongoing knowledge exchange between academia and industry. Compared to the previous workshops, a fairly new hurdle came up with a high number of votes: the lack of collaboration and possibilities to find potential project partners. The examination of this issue provided the BIO-TIC partners with some new insight on the French case. It was outlined that innovation is somewhat hampered because the French research agenda is driven by several small circles – ‘clubs’ – that usually cooperate with the same companies and tend to focus on a small number of specific issues. In addition, regional funding schemes generate a competition for assets between potential project partners. The participants subsequently suggested establishing new requirements for funding programmes that would prompt organisations to team up with other researchers, organisations or even regional or national bodies than usual. Accordingly, the crucial importance of clusters was highlighted. The lack of attention for non-fuel biobased products was considered a major shortcoming in the IB field. In light of the importance of product cost, the need to create a critical mass to drive the uptake of biobased products was stressed. Brand owners could set
the pace by integrating biobased products in the value chain. In addition, investment should be fostered and made more accessible so biobased products become truly cost competitive.


Countries/regions described/represented: France
Year: 2014