Proving Out the Circular Bio-Economy – Cleantech Forum Europe Recap

Leo Zhang

In its 11th edition, Cleantech Forum Europe took place this year in Florence, Italy, where leading entrepreneurs, industrial multinational corporations, financial investors, and other cleantech stakeholders gathered at our multi-day program immersed under the Industrial Renaissance theme. This year’s theme reflects on the Tuscany region’s leading research and development initiatives, as well as Italy’s heavy industrial manufacturing base.

One session in particular – Proving out the Circular Bio-Economy – focused heavily on industrial plants in the industrial biotechnology sector. Based on Cleantech Group’s 2014 Global Cleantech 100 (GCT 100) report, the industrial biotech sector was the third most represented in the 2014 list with 10 selected companies. Despite a drop in equity dollars invested into this sub-sector, many companies are at the verge of commercial breakthroughs, and some have already proven their technologies at industrial scale.

A key takeaway from this session – capital efficiency remains key factor in achieving commercial success – reflected the need to reduce CAPEX and OPEX in order to be cost competitive against petroleum-based products.

During the session, panelist Sean Sutcliffe, CEO of Green Biologics, shared his company’s experience in commercializing its technology through an international collaboration with its partner in China. The company was able to leverage an idle plant in China to prove its technology viability, thus reducing additional CAPEX requirements. In addition to Green Biologics’ case study, the session also featured panelists from Eni and Novamont, two leading Italian companies with significant involvement in the bio-economy.

Despite certain headwinds in the industrial biotech sector, we have certainly seen progress being made in proving the circular bio-economy, and the opportunities are still ahead of us.