Increasing release of carbon dioxide (CO2) has a dramatic impact on global climate. The utilization of CO2 as a carbon resource is coming into focus of research and development. Which products could be derived from CO2? What are the economic, ecologic and energy-political issues that should be linked to scientific agendas?

This and other questions were addressed by a group of experts during the workshop session ‘CO2 – the Next Generation Feedstock for valuable Products’, at the European Summit of Industrial Biotechnology (ESIB 2019), held on November 18-20, 2019 in Graz (Austria).

The event was organized by the SUNRISE supporter Austrian Centre of Industrial Biotechnology (ACIB). It gathered 460 stakeholders from both academia and industry to discuss about bioproduction in the sense of bioeconomy, advances in biomanufacturing, and upcoming biopharmaceuticals.

During the session, Yagut Allahverdiyeva-Rinne from our partner University of Turku represented the SUNRISE initiative by introducing the artificial and natural photosynthesis concept. SUNRISE supporters Anastasios Permineis CO2 Value Europe, Silvia Fluch (ecoduna AG), and Björn Heijstra (LanzaTech) also contributed to give a clearer picture of the key stakeholders in a circular economy to create value from CO2

Sieber Volker from our partner Fraunhofer was also present at the event as invited speaker at the session ‘Next generation biocatalytic production’. Together with Nick Turner (University of Manchester), Radka Snajdrova (Novartis) and Bruno Bühler (UFZ Leipzig), he explained the various current challenges for biocatalysts, and the state for using light and electricity as energy sources for biocatalytic reactions.

Throughout the different panel sessions, there was the business perspective, where different companies like BASF, Merck, Sanofi, or Cosmetics Europe showcased some of their good practices and bioproduction-related projects. The Research & Development angle was also represented with the presentation of EU funded research projects, for instance, Rafts4Biotech (CSIC), Olefine/PAcMEN (DTU), or YEASTDOC (Biotrend).

How to implement a sustainable and circular bioeconomy, or how to overcome disadvantages of the current industrial biotechnology – low yields, discontinuous process, high energy input, high cost for product recovery, etc. – were the most addressed issues among the different sessions. To solve these problems, the main general outcome was that a next generation of industrial biotechnology is urgently needed. Besides, a guided matchmaking event “Science meets Economy’ was organized by the SFG and the Enterprise Europe Network and offered a unique opportunity to generate business contacts and develop new ideas.

Over the coming decades, the world will witness increased competition for limited and finite natural resources. A 70 % increase of the world food supply is estimated to be required to feed the 9 billion global population by 2050. Bioeconomy is one of Europe’s responses to key environmental challenges the world is facing already today. It is meant to reduce the dependence on natural resources, transform manufacturing, promote sustainable production of renewable resources and their conversion into bio-based products and bio-energy, while growing new jobs and industries.