Future Prospects for Industrial Biotechnology

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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. 




Scope and drivers for industrial biotechnology

Industrial biotechnology has achieved spectacular new growth and interest in recent years, mainly as a result of global interest in biofuels. This chapter reviews the drivers for this growth spurt. In the United States the interest has mainly derived from the desire for energy independence, and biofuels production has benefited from a wide range of policy support mechanisms, as well as massive public spending. In Europe there has been more interest in maintaining a competitive chemicals industry. Over 70 countries now have bioenergy targets. The drivers vary from stimulation of the rural environment, to concerns over climate change, to fossil fuel price volatility. It is also clear that Asia will have a major role in the future development of industrial biotechnology.


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