A major goal of the bioeconomy is to use larger quantities of biobased raw materials to produce energy, transport fuels and feedstock for industrial processes. This requires detailed analyses, simulations, concepts and processes. Major focus needs to be placed on issues relating to crop production, biomass potentials, land surface requirements, conversion technologies, biobased value creation networks and food security. Agriculture, forestry, waste management and the industry in general will need to work in concert as far as the raw materials all of them use or deal with are concerned.
Examples of fuels produced from biomass are biomethane, renewable natural gas (RNG), biogenic hydrogen, biokerosene, biomethanol, bioethanol and higher alcohols. However, in future, care must be taken to avoid the well-documented conflict between crops used for food and those used for fuel production. The bioeconomy strategy therefore calls for only using the biomass that cannot be used for producing food. Microalgae, biowaste and residual materials have huge potential in this area.
Biomass can be used to produce chemicals, fibres, pigments and plastics. These products are either identical to their petroleum-based counterparts or have completely new properties. Biorefineries will play a key role in the transition to a bioeconomy. There is great expectation placed on the potential ability to convert the countless carbon compounds in biomass into chemicals and material components.
Agricultural land on Earth is limited. However, the increased need for food and feed coupled with the increasing use of biomass feedstocks leads to areas of conflict such as intensive farming, biodiversity loss, land grabbing and indirect land use change. Governments are faced with the major challenge of having to deal with and shape the bioeconomy while taking equally into account the ecological, economic and ethical concerns and integrating them in sustainable solutions.
Nature provides the material basis for a bioeconomy. Preventive and production-integrated environmental protection will therefore become even more important in a bioeconomy. Powerful analytical systems that can be used in industrial processes or in the field will provide information about soil, air and water quality. Environmental analytics and monitoring are crucial for the bioeconomy.
The Special Interest Groups (SIGs) were created as part of BIOPRO Baden-Württemberg’s Akteursplattform Bioökonomie and are aimed at promoting Baden-Württemberg as a bioeconomy location. Two SIG meetings were held in May and June 2016.
In 2011 Baden-Württemberg was home to around 37 bioenergy villages and several others are under construction or in the planning phase. Bioenergy villages produce all of their electricity and energy for heating locally from renewable resources such as maize and wood electricity is mainly generated from biogas.
The alarming decline in animal and plant species stands more chance to be stopped by action on local and regional levels than through global conventions. Research and action programmes by German federal and state governments can help preserve biodiversity in Baden-Württemberg.
The German Minister of Agriculture, Ilse Aigner, has launched the pilot phase of the world’s first lignocellulose biorefinery to be set up by a research consortium at the Leuna chemical location. Speaking in Berlin, Aigner presented the decision of the German government to grant more than 8.5 million euros to a consortium that also includes researchers from Baden-Württemberg as part of the “Renewable Resources” programme of the German Ministry of Nutrition, Agriculture and Consumer Protection (BMELV).
The conversion of undeveloped land into residential areas and roads in Baden-Württemberg has in fact fallen by fifty percent in the past ten years, but there is still a long way to go before land management becomes sustainable. Detailed studies on the changing conditions of land use are necessary in order to develop practical concepts for environmentally compatible planning.
With the investment of 4.2 per cent of its gross domestic product in research and development Baden-Württemberg leads other German states and European countries in this sector. The 27 European states spent an average of only 1.8 per cent.
Major impulses for the transition to a bioeconomy must come from the international and national level. This has been the case for Europe and Germany and is driven forward by programmes that have been launched by national and European governments
The lack of flexibility with regard to peak demand for electricity – both for consumers and producers – is a well-known problem as far as the production of electricity from renewable resources is concerned. Biogas plants present a particular challenge due to the complex and relatively slow microbial processes involved. A research project called FLEXIZUCKER at the Universities of Ulm and Göttingen aims to make biogas production more flexible and hence the supply of renewable electricity more grid- and market compatible.
The Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Science, Research and the Arts has been funding the "Bioeconomy Research Programme Baden-Württemberg" since 2014. In his role as the chairman of the Strategy Circle and Steering Committee Professor Dr. Thomas Hirth has been instrumental in shaping the programme. Dr. Ursula Göttert from BIOPRO Baden-Württemberg talked with Prof. Hirth about how the bioeconomy has progressed in Baden-Württemberg.
A project called ”Energiebündel & Flowerpower" run by the “Netzwerk Streuobst Mössingen" has established a complex local recycling network for biomass from meadow orchards. The network involves the city of Mössingen, the neighbouring municipality of Nehren, the KFB institution for the physically disabled and their self-help work group called “Streuobst und Naturschutz”, a biogas operator from Nehren, a start-up company called Vital Carbon, a wood pellet company and first and foremost the owners of small orchards around the city of Mössingen.
Baden-Württemberg will provide an additional 16.5 million euros for the rehabilitation of the biology building and the State Institute of Agricultural Chemistry at the University of Hohenheim both of which are central buildings required by the life science priorities.
The days when forests died off in Germany are over. This is not only excellent news in terms of carbon storage. Using wood also helps us avoid carbon dioxide emissions. More and more cities rely on timber constructions, which have long been used in the high-tech sector. The HolzProKlima competition has massively promoted sustainable building construction in Baden-Württemberg, highlighting what it can offer in terms of climate protection.
The forestry industry already makes an important contribution to the bioeconomy. A project called “CirculAlps” will expand and diversify this contribution as well as promoting the circular economy in the Alpine timber sector.
On 1st December 2008 Prof. Dr. Karl Schmid the first person to hold the F.W. Schnell Foundations endowed professorship for crop biodiversity and breeding informatics started the ball rolling on a unique European-wide project. Schmid and his colleagues are searching gigantic databases in which genetic analyses and plant descriptions are stored for hidden treasures.
We talk about bioenergy, but what do we actually mean? The term bioenergy refers to renewable energy produced from material of biological origin. But is the term really exact? Does it create false expectations? “Bio” is often associated with something that is ecological, environmentally friendly and clean. Perhaps “energy from biomass” would be more appropriate? It’s a bulkier term than bioenergy, but also much more neutral.
Biogas experts at the University of Hohenheim believe that up to 50 per cent more energy can be achieved per hectare of cultivated energy crops. The researchers are hoping that Germanys first biogas research plant will provide them with new insights.
Wood from local forests is an important resource for the bioeconomy. However at present, a large amount of wood is used as fuel for energy production. Greater forest diversity and new wood-based materials have the potential to make the timber industry more sustainable. The bioeconomy can contribute to this by promoting the utilisation of deciduous trees.
The discussion relating to bioeconomy and biobased economy is broadening. But what do these terms actually mean? The “View on Biobased Economy – Bioeconomy” presentation theme at ACHEMA 2012 in Frankfurt has provided some answers. Several exhibitors presented industrial biotechnology product scenarios and provided information about current funding programmes and future funding calls.
The Interreg Danube Translational Programme’s ”DanuBioValNet” project aims to establish new biobased value chains. Under the leadership of BIOPRO Baden-Württemberg GmbH, 17 partners from the Danube region met on 1st January 2017 to pave the ground for transnational collaboration in the biobased industry. Regional cluster organisations are expected to drive the change from a fossil fuel-based industry to a biobased industry forward and will be given intensive training to help them initiate transnational networking in this sector.
The Distillery for Research and Training at the University of Hohenheim has been reopened after the completion of renovation work costing around 1.2 million euros. The distillery is now equipped with a computer-operated process-control system and modern sensors, all state-of-the-art technology for the fermentation processes at Hohenheim. The new distillery pilot plant has a fermentation room for work with genetically modified organisms. Genetically modified yeasts can be tested for their suitability for the production of bioethanol from new raw materials.
The efficient recycling of biowaste makes an enormous contribution to the bioeconomy and climate protection. Researchers in the Department of Waste Management and Emissions headed up by Prof. Dr.-Ing. Martin Kranert at the Institute for Sanitary Engineering, Water Quality and Solid Waste Management (ISWA) at the University of Stuttgart, are exploring the optimisation potential of biowaste recovery.
Dr. Frank Brändle and Dr. Marco Thines managing directors of PathoScan GbR in Hohenheim have developed a PCR-based test system which allows the detection of fungi and bacteria in seed at very early stages. The test system will be patented in the near future.
The results of the feasibility studies funded under the Idea Competition in Biotechnology and Medical Technology were presented in the Haus der Wirtschaft in Stuttgart between 16th and 18th January 2012. Ten of the 42 project ideas were recommended for further funding.
Automated steering systems, data-driven targeted application of fertilisers and pesticides, field robots and drones, soil analysis sensors, autonomous driving - digitisation is advancing in agriculture as elsewhere. The question asked by farmers and by society in general is whether the increasing adoption of digital technologies in agriculture is a curse or a blessing.
Trees of the genus Symplocos in the Indonesian mountain rainforest store so much aluminium in their leaves that it can be used for dyeing textiles. A research project at the University of Ulm aims to preserve the traditional dyeing methods of Indonesian weavers, protect these rare trees and increase our knowledge of aluminium-accumulating plants.
The use of sustainable raw materials is the focus of the new research programme bio-economy for which the Baden-Württemberg State Government is making 13 million Euros available. Of the total of 45 research projects recommended for funding 11 projects already approved are established at seven institutes at the University of Stuttgart these have a volume of two million Euros.
The goal of the Interreg Alpine Space project "AlpLinkBioEco" is to establish better connections between Alpine regions and to focus more on biobased and circular value chains. BIOPRO is working to achieve this goal as part of a consortium involving 13 other European partners from France, Italy, Austria, Switzerland and Slovenia.
Biodiversity is essential for functioning, stable ecosystems and the wellbeing of the human race. Despite conventions, resolutions and action plans for the protection of biological diversity at all political levels, the decline of species diversity is increasing dramatically all over the world, including Germany. Targeted projects and funding measures have been put in place with the objective of stopping this deadly trend.
Biogas has become an alternative and sustainable energy resource. In 2013, the 7,850 biogas plants in Germany – including 858 in Baden-Württemberg – produced enough biogas to cover around seven percent of Germany’s total electricity needs. Martin Falger, managing director of wusoa GmbH in Stuttgart, explained in an interview with Sanja Fessl (BIOPRO) why he believes that small-scale biogas plants have a promising future. They expand the biogas plant spectrum by enabling regions that do not have enough biomass to operate large biogas plants to benefit from this energy resource. Livestock farms in these regions also benefit from the presence of the small-scale plants.
The term nanotechnology is known by well over 50 of Germans especially since the lotus effect hit the headlines in the late 1990s. Around the turn of the millennium bio was inserted between nano and technology and nanobiotechnology has since taken up more and more room in the headlines as well as requiring major financial investment. What is nanobiotechnology what is the difference between nanotechnology and nanobiotechnology and where and what nanobiotechnological research is being carried out in Germany and more particularly in Baden-Württemberg and which applications is it aimed at?
It is rather reassuring to know that fossil energy carriers can be replaced by renewable ones. However, the difficulties are always in the details. For example with regard to the storage capacity of electricity produced with sun and wind; or with regard to the use of biomass to produce natural gas substitutes. The Stuttgart-based Centre for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research Baden-Württemberg (ZSW) has a number of solutions up its sleeve for overcoming such difficulties. The ZSW researchers are able to produce high-quality natural gas substitutes from wood and electrical power. In addition, the centre has just set a world record in the efficiency of thin-film solar cells.
Biogas plants have become well-known sights throughout Germany and are usually built according to standardised concepts. The biogas plant that is currently being constructed in the village of Zermatt below the Matterhorn presented the GICON Großmann Ingenieur Consult GmbH planners with a particular challenge. The geographical and climatic conditions of the area and seasonal waste variations due to seasonally fluctuating tourist numbers required them to come up with an individualised solution.
Microbial cells long gave researchers the impression that they were in a state of complete disorder. Prof. Dr. Peter Graumann from the University of Freiburg investigates cell division in bacteria and knows that even microbes are highly organised.
Agroforestry systems can provide effective protection against soil erosion caused by wind and water. They can also contribute to stabilising and improving the yield of annual plants. In addition, strips in fields planted with shrubs and trees form living spaces and areas to which plants and animals can retreat. In the AUFWERTEN innovation group, the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering IAO is working with other German research institutions and organisations to set up agroforestry systems in Germany.
As in previous years, BIOPRO Baden-Württemberg GmbH participated in this year’s Hannover Messe, the world’s biggest industrial fair. With the USA as partner country and the lead theme ”Integrated Industry – Discover Solutions”, the 2016 trade fair attracted more than 190,000 visitors from around the world. From 25th to 29th April, visitors to hall 2 were able to discover biobased products and experience an economy that runs without fossil resources.
The completion of the bioliq® pilot plant on the northern campus of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) is now a certainty. Following the commitment by the German and Baden-Württemberg governments to provide 11 million euros in financing, the KIT has now also signed contracts with companies that will work with KIT in the implementation of the two final processing stages. These two stages involve the production of second-generation environmentally friendly biofuel from biogenic synthesis gas.
Whether it be syringes biodegradable joint screws or cannules for catheters - hospitals prefer high quality plastics that are not too costly. Pfaff GmbH from Waldkirch has the know-how and the technical ability to manufacture such plastics parts.
The Science Years initiative was launched by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research in the year 2000 to increase the publics confidence in the work of scientists. However the initiative has not been successful in the field of genetic engineering with the repeated destruction of trial fields sown with genetically modified plants being evidence of this. Professor Dr. Andreas Schier agricultural scientist from Nürtingen discusses why this is so.
The Freiburg-based start-up company Ö-Klo leases composting toilets and is committed to the recovery of human urine and faeces. The young Ö-Klo entrepreneurs believe that reviving natural material cycles of soil, plants, food and excreta is crucial in times when natural resources such as phosphorus are dwindling.
Mobile DNA elements are able to change their position in the genome and mobilise entire gene groups as well as switch genes on and off. Professor Bodo Rak and his team at the University of Freiburg are investigating the effect of mobile DNA fragments on the evolution of E. coli bacteria.