Overall, however, while the debate and the competition go on, it becomes even more obvious that the best opportunity for a bioeconomy in the short and mid-term lies not in providing drop-ins for well-established and cheap products from the petrochemical age. Its biggest chance is to develop products and solutions that are new, better and cheaper than their fossil ancestors.
Instead of defunctionalizing complex molecules to mimic the bottom-up building of traditional chemistry, new products should make use of the functionalities provided — an effect we see already today in pharmaceuticals or cosmetics, where the chemical total synthesis of active ingredients has been replaced by biotechnological processes on a broad range. The same applies for vitamins, enzymes, but also more “technical” products such as surfactants or bioplastics.
Is the bioeconomy caught in the fossil trap? No. The way out, however, is not along the well-trod synthetic pathways of the past, but along new, innovative routes that lead to improved products. Convincing consumers by performance rather than relying on their ecological conscience is the key to establishing bio-based products on a large scale. Bio-economy will not come as a revolution. But we are already in the middle of the bioeconomy evolution.
Tip: Panel Discussion at ACHEMA 2015
A panel discussion at ACHEMA 2015 will draw the spotlight on the effects of shale gas on the bioeconomy on Tuesday, June 16. Find more information at www.achema.de in spring 2015.
* K. Wagemann is Executive Director and K. Rübberdt is Head of Biotechnology, DECHEMA e.V.