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Future Prospects for Industrial Biotechnology

image of Future Prospects for Industrial Biotechnology

The field of industrial biotechnology has moved rapidly in recent years as a combined result of international political desire, especially in the case of biofuels, and unprecedented progress in molecular biology research that has supplied the enabling technologies. Different geographical regions  have different priorities, but common drivers are climate change mitigation and the desire for energy independence. Now, industrial biotechnology has reached the centre of scientific and political attention. At no time in the past has there been a more pressing need for coherent, evidence-based, proportionate regulations and policy measures; they are at the heart of responsible development of industrial biotechnology.

This publication examines the international drivers, the enabling technologies that are fast-tracking Industrial Biotechnology, industry trends, some of the products that are appearing on the market, industry structure and finance, and finally policy measures and trends. It examines separately biofuels, biobased chemicals and bioplastics. It is quite clear that a supportive policy framework for the development of biofuels exists in many countries, but that no such framework is in place for biobased chemicals and bioplastics. This seems at odds with the apparent need for the integrated biorefinery, where chemicals and plastics production will significantly improve profitability when produced alongside transportation fuels. 

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Current high-visibility industrial biotechnology products

It has often been said that one of the reasons why investors are reluctant to invest in industrial biotechnology is the lack of tangible products and “blockbusters”. This chapter describes some of the recent products that are emerging from industrial biotechnology. One of these has been predicted to be the first industrial biotechnology blockbuster in terms of sales. As the products become more visible, the investor climate should improve. It is worth noting that many of the products are components of everyday products, such as garments and tyres. Although consumers may not realise it, they purchase industrial biotechnology products in, for example, shirts which are a blend of cotton and bio-based textiles, and tyres containing bio-isoprene. Better recognition could greatly aid the market diffusion of bio-based products.

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