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Green industrial revolution needed to feed and fuel the future

Heerlen, NL, 09 May 2011 15:15 CEST

Royal DSM CEO in acceptance speech for George Washington Carver Award at BIO.

The so-called fossil-age will make a shift to the bio-based-economy. In two or three centuries from now, people will look back on our civilization as a merely brief moment in history where we in a period of just about 250 years shifted our total economy to coal, oil and gas. To make the shift back to living with, and especially off, nature, we need to start this shift now. We are at a turning point towards a next green industrial revolution to secure our feed and fuel needs in the future.”

With these words DSM CEO Feike Sijbesma received the prestigious George Washington Carver Award for Innovation in Industrial Biotechnology in recognition of his outstanding contribution and vision to the development and innovation in industrial biotechnology. Mr. Sijbesma received the award and delivered a keynote address today in Toronto (Ontario, Canada), during a plenary session of the 2011 World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology and Bio-processing.

In his keynote address Mr. Sijbesma elucidated the importance and the impact of biotechnology in view of the current shift from the fossil-based- to the bio-based-economy. He gave examples of new bio-based materials and addressed that food and bio-fuels do not have to compete with each other; biotechnology can help to produce proteins for human consumption as well as bio-fuels and materials.

Biotechnology of the future can possibly allow us to produce from plant-materials, both, human food, by extracting nutritional high quality human food proteins, as well as biomaterials, bio-chemicals and bio-energy (fuels and gas)”, Sijbesma said.

According to BIO (the US based Biotechnology Industry Organization) Mr. Sijbesma is being honored as a visionary leader of the bio-economy, which is projected to contribute almost $250 billion to the world economy by 2020, according to the World Economic Forum. Under his guidance, DSM has made significant steps in the development of industrial biotechnology for conversion of renewable resources to value added health, nutrition and materials, supporting sustainable development.

Feike Sijbesma said: “I am truly honored having received the 2011 George Washington Carver Award for contributing to the innovation and development of the industrial applications of biotechnology. I am convinced that in the coming decades biotechnology will have an enormous contribution in addressing worldwide issues around health, nutrition and environment. At DSM, we are committed to make a lasting and sustainable difference to the world in which we live. Biotechnology will enable us to combine our knowledge of life sciences with materials sciences to provide brighter lives for people today and generations to come.”

DSM also announced today together with its partner Roquette to open a new commercial scale plant in Italy for the production of bio-based succinic acid. More information can be found in a separate press release. At the BIO conference in Toronto DSM and Abengoa presented further breakthrough results with DSM’s C5/C6 advanced yeast technology for second generation bio-fuels. The yield on cellulose derived C5/C6 sugars can exceed 90% conversion rate, making this new DSM proprietary (yeast) technology more economically feasible.

George Washington Carver is considered one of the founding fathers of the chemurgy movement, whose modern-day analog is industrial biotechnology. Industrial biotechnology companies today are developing new methods to use renewable agricultural resources to manufacture new alternative fuels, materials (like bio-plastics and bio-chemicals), pharmaceuticals and food ingredients. The field has developed in ways that Carver may never have imagined, but the work of industrial biotech companies remains true to the goal of a sustainable bio-economy.

Past recipients of the Carver Award are Dr. Patrick Gruber, CEO of Gevo, Inc. (former CTO of NatureWorks, a JV between Dow and Cargill), in 2008; Charles O. Holliday, Jr., chairman of the board of DuPont in 2009; and Gregory Stephanopoulos, the Willard Henry Dow Professor of Chemical Engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2010.