The 8th European Congress of Chemical Engineering and 1st European Congress of Applied Biotechnology closed on Thursday in Berlin on an upbeat note. For four days, about 3,000 scientists from industry and academia discussed topics from research and practical application. Especially the lectures on downstream processing of biotechnological products were strongly frequented; sessions on energy storage, future thinking in innovation and process intensification were also received with great interest.
Dr. Hermann Feise, Chairman of ECCE, underlined in his opening address that process engineers and biotechnologists were not holding their meetings at the same time in the same place, but jointly. Accordingly, the different disciplines met not only in the joint sessions but used the opportunity to listen to lectures from the respective other area. "Biotechnologists and process engineers have come together and discussed until the rooms burst at the seams", said Dr. Andreas Förster, Managing Director of ProcessNet. "This is a tremendous success." Professor Alois Jungbauer, Chairman of ECAB, concluded: "The event has shown that we have entered into the age of biology. Biotechnology and chemistry are merging."
The fact that both disciplines cannot be separated any more in industrial praxis became also visible during the joint press conference. Impressing examples for value creation by biotechnological processes were presented. In this context, Dr. Xavier Montagne, IFP Energie Nouvelles, showed the close link between green and white biotechnology: Plants are increasingly becoming a source for high-value building blocks for organic synthesis and fine chemicals for industrial processes. Dr. Günter Wich, Wacker Chemie, explained that more and more processes based on biotechnology are evaluated for manufacturing bulk chemicals and low-value commodities which, to date, rely on the petrochemical industry. Nevertheless, biotechnological processes also have to prove their economic, ecologic, and social viability, stated Dr. Friedrich Seitz, BASF SE. In evaluating these technologies, "bio" could not be equated with "sustainable". Dr. Henk van Liempt, Federal Ministry of Education and Research, emphasized that the bioeconomy is a project reaching beyond Germany and Europe. Prof. Dr. Thomas Scheper, Leibniz University Hannover, pointed out that the new developments need to be reflected in the curricula of universities and underlined the importance of an interdisciplinary education.
But the congress covered many important topics besides the joint issues. In his opening speech, Dr. Helge Braun, Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, said that with the energy turnaround, a development has been set off politically that now needs to be supported by technology. In contrast to TV shows, scientists and engineers were the true talents that advanced Germany. Energy efficiency and energy generation were important topics in the engineering sessions. Maybe the strongest proof fo the success of this joint event was given at the very end: Together with the 9th European Congress of Chemical Engineering, the 2nd European Congress of Applied Biotechnology will be held in The Hague in 2013.