Broad opportunities seen for industrial biotechnology

14 November 2012 18:06  [Source: ICIS news]

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania (ICIS)--Major manufacturers told bio-based industrial chemistry officials on Wednesday that there are broad opportunities ahead for biotechnology in both commercial and consumer products.

Ben Borns, senior chemist at paints and coatings firm Sherwin-Williams, said that “there are real opportunities available for bio-based materials and processes across our product lines.”

In addition to its architectural paints and coatings business, he noted that Sherwin-Williams also has a range of product in marine, automotive and industrial sectors.

In all, he said, his company seeks new technologies and processes that reduce time and labour costs associated with its products, for example by reducing the number of coats a paint application requires.

Speaking at the inaugural International Forum on Commercializing Global Green, he also said there are opportunities for biomaterials in improving the health and safety properties of products. He cited a recent Sherwin Williams product development that allows wall paint to remove odours from a room.

He emphasised that while consumers are ready and even eager to buy bio-based products, they typically cannot anticipate where that technology could be useful, so it is the responsibility of manufacturers to create those advantages.

“Consumer demand is highly reactive to the petroleum market, the price at the pump,” Borns said.  “And they are accepting of bio-based products if they are equal or better in performance.”

Carmen Rodriguez, business manager at Arkema subsidiary Altuglas International, said her company “sees tremendous profit potential in sustainability, noting that in five years Arkema has improved margins in part by reducing workplace accidents by half and cutting its worldwide emissions by 78%.

She said the firm sees both the growing global population and increasing energy demand as opportunities to develop renewable raw materials and new energy sources, improve water management and related products, and advance development of light-weighting materials.

Steve Schnittger, executive director for microbiology at cosmetics giant Estee Lauder, said the company has established a green chemistry programme that rates products in development on their human impact, environmental impact and their eco-toxicity.

The policy also applies as far as possible, he said, to the company’s raw materials selections and to its raw materials suppliers.

He said that Estee Lauder formulators are given a “green design tool” that measures a given material’s green profile on more than a dozen properties – water consumption, energy use, etc. – that guides the company’s product developers.

The three executives spoke on the concluding day of the two-day industrial biotech conference.

The event was organised by the Society for the Commercial Development of Industrial Biotechnology (SCDiBIO), an affiliate of the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA).

It is expected to become an annual event.

Paul Hodges studies key influences shaping the chemical industry in Chemicals and the Economy

By: Joe Kamalick
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