The blog has come across a useful new tool for global brainstorming, run out of San Francisco by DiscoveryCast.
They have recently organised a major event with Paris-based SpecialChem to review the current state of play in bio-based initiatives.
This involved a group of 550 experts from 400 companies (including 3M, Dow, Michelin, DuPont, Arkema, Dow Corning, Bayer, DSM, BASF, P&G and Unilever), pooling ideas online.
The conclusions provide a fascinating snapshot of developments in this key area:
• Bio-based initiatives are more technology-driven than market-driven
• There is no clear vision about where the first breakthroughs will occur
• Areas of current study include lignin for PF resins, and a possible role for fermentation to develop oxygenated and di-acid intermediates
• Key technology trends in the use of genetically engineered organisms (eg bacteria, algae, or plants) are still in their infancy.
• The development of enzymes and catalysts to efficiently transform sugar-based feedstocks is attracting widespread interest.
Significant resources are being invested in bio-based materials, and current thinking is focused on developing business models that aim to replace oil-based chemicals by copying or mimicking petrochemicals.
Bio-based aliphatic systems are likely to be an earlier market than aromatics, as the latter don't currently exist on a commercial scale. Equally, participants appeared realistic about the multiple hurdles that still have to be overcome (e.g. the food vs. chemicals debate, lack of consistent "green labelling" for consumer products).
Overall, brainstorm participants expected a number of niche opportunities, and some medium-sized opportunities, to develop over the next few years. But understanding the market drivers for these new products will be key to success.