Last week I attended the Sixth Annual World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology & Bioprocessing in Montreal with Mel Luetkens, our COO, Andy Shafer, our executive vice president of sales and market development and Mike Tupy, our director of technical development. All of us were impressed with the level of global participation in the conference. In addition, there was a notable increase in the number of companies now focused on pathways to new green chemicals. We are pleased to see the growth and interest in this sector increasing.
While at the BIO World Congress I had the pleasure of speaking on the opening lunch plenary panel, where I helped answer the question “How Can Industrial Biotechnology Thrive in the Current Global Economy?” The session was moderated by Bill Caesar of McKinsey and Company and the panel included the CEOs from Myriant, Genomatica, Codexis, and Natureworks. The conversation was wide ranging with a focus on both the challenge of raising capital in this environment and the opportunities being created through partnerships. I thoroughly enjoyed being part of this stimulating and engaging conversation.
Mike Tupy represented Elevance at a breakout session titled “Biorenewable Chemicals: Multi-Product Production Pathways” where he discussed how chemical catalysts can be used to produce platform chemicals from renewable resources.
On Wednesday, the final day of the Congress, Andy Shafer spoke at the session titled “Business Models for a Successful BioEconomy.” He focused on our approach to accelerating business development and market penetration of renewable based products through collaboration and partnership, and provided examples of how we are implementing this model to quicken the pace of commercialization of new products in our functional oils platform.
We left Montreal with a wealth of constructive information we look forward to sharing with others here at Elevance. Make sure you check out the BIO Web site for access to webinars and useful ideas from the Sixth Annual Congress.
This week, Elevance Renewable Sciences, Inc. announced that we have been awarded a $250,000 (Canadian) grant by the Saskatchewan Canola Development Commission (SaskCanola) to enhance the use of canola in renewable-based chemicals. SaskCanola is a producer led commission, established in 1991 under the Saskatchewan Agri-Food Act to improve the competitiveness and profitability of canola producers through research, market development and communication initiatives.
We will use the grant to research how canola can more effectively be converted into specialty chemicals using our metathesis technology. This partnership holds significant growth potential for both the canola and renewable chemicals industries. By teaming up with SaskCanola, Elevance will be able to apply our proven metathesis process to canola more efficiently, creating products that outperform those made using traditional petroleum-based ingredients, beginning with an alternative to petrolatum, a skin protectant widely used in cosmetic skin care.
By joining forces, we will be able to improve the use of canola as a foundation for specialty chemicals, while also lowering manufacturing costs.
The grant currently focuses on petrolatum as the final product. However, we believe that there is tremendous potential for other end uses of specialty chemicals generated from canola. We have talked a lot about how much we value partnerships at Elevance, and I look forward to a successful and productive one with SaskCanola.
The New York Times published an article depicting both the excitement and many challenges that are being faced as plant-based fuels are slowly coming into the market. Though products such as algae hold enormous potential as alternatives for transportation fuel, algal feedstock won’t be commercially available until 2012 and won’t have a significant impact on the market until 2016.
While many predict commercial production will occur in 2012, a handful of algae-based biofuels startups have announced more aggressive timelines. San Francisco based Solazyme, which uses synthetic biology to produce algae-derived fuels and has raised a total of $76 million in venture financing, has said it plans to build a commercial plant by 2010, and San Diego-based Sapphire Energy, which has raised more than $100 million in venture funding, has said it’s ramping up production estimates to 1 million gallons of algae-based diesel and jet fuel per year by 2011. The company’s technology uses photosynthetic microorganisms, such as algae, to produce what it calls renewable gasoline, a fuel that is chemically identical to molecules in crude oil.
This is an exciting trend in science and it certainly will collect vast benefits in the years to come. At Elevance, we have developed a metathesis based biorefinery that can also make commercially-viable alternatives to traditional jet fuel, as well as diesel and specialty chemicals using renewable resources . Our biorefinery enables us to achieve this using both today’s renewable oils and emerging oils like algae and jatropha. You’ll be hearing more about our biorefinery at this site soon.
On July 1, Elevance hosted U.S. Representative Judy Biggert (R-IL-13th) at our Bolingbrook facility for a discussion on the company and a tour of our offices and labs.
As a senior member of the House Science & Technology Committee, and former chair of the Energy and Environment Subcommittee, Congresswoman Biggert has been an advocate for the use of renewable resources, an issue that is very important to Elevance given our development of renewable-based chemicals. She met with the Elevance team to get a better understanding of the company, and discussed her passion for these issues and how they relate to her work on the Science and Technology committee. Following the informational meeting, the Congresswoman toured the labs to get a better understanding of Elevance’s technology at work.
Biggert released a statement following her visit that highlighted her experience and desire to bring attention to this important industry segment. In the statement, she said, “Elevance is a perfect example of how science and technologies can boost our economy, create new products, and end our reliance on foreign oil.”
I look forward to the opportunity of working with the Congresswoman on further initiatives that can benefit Bolingbrook, boost the renewables industry and promote the use of alternatives to petroleum.
Two articles have been published over the last few weeks that illustrate how much our industry is attracting investments from venture capitalists. CNet published an interesting story explaining that green technology will be growing faster than traditional areas of venture capital investment over the coming years. In a survey organized by Deloitte that interviewed 75 venture capitalists, more than 60% believed that investments in green technology will rise, a figure far greater than what was predicted for other industries such as medical equipment. The general sentiment is optimistic that the second half of this year will see a higher level of investment, and we here at Elevance are pleased to see these favorable indicators.
Another article by the Greentech Innovations Report also highlights the growing trend of venture capitalist investment in green technology. In fact, just two-thirds into the second quarter, venture capital investment has already exceeded last quarter’s dollar and deal totals in green technology, totaling to a combined figure of $1.74 billion so far this year.