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Biotechnology creates value from residual streams

In the Biotechnology section of the Bioeconomy Arena, which brings together RISE’s infrastructure in the field of bioeconomy, the entire biotechnology process is made available to businesses, entrepreneurs, and academia. Food-grade-approved infrastructure allows companies, entrepreneurs, and academia to meet and work together on solutions to make maximum use of circular bio-raw materials and create products of value in different industries.

To speed up development towards a circular bioeconomy, the Swedish State has provided funds to modernise and augment RISE’s biorefinery testbeds. The initiative has been dubbed Bioeconomy Arena and includes infrastructure in several locations across the country, with the centre in Örnsköldsvik.

In the biotechnology part of the initiative, enzymes or microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungi, can be used to convert so-called low-value residual streams into proteins for food and animal feed, for example, or into materials that can replace fossil fuel-derived materials such as plastics.

– “Our main focus is to valorise residues from the Swedish forest, such as sawdust and lye from sawmills and pulp mills,” says Gunnar Westin, Group Manager at RISE.

Three testbeds

Bioeconomy Arena will feature three biotechnology testbeds.

– “In the first, we will be able to produce new and more efficient microorganisms by means of an automated high-capacity facility,” explains Björn Alriksson, researcher at RISE. “We can work with several thousand microorganisms simultaneously, which is unique.”

The second testbed contains a bioreactor for cultivation and fermentation, while separation and purification are carried out in the third testbed with the help of various techniques, such as filtration, centrifugation, chromatography, and desiccation.

– “This means we can offer the entire biotechnological process with a capacity of up to 10,000 litres with subsequent separation and purification,” says Alriksson.

We have well-developed infrastructure, a talented team of experts, we are quick on our feet and we operate in an innovation-friendly environment

Food-grade approval ensures a clean environment

The size is exceptional, and so too is the fact that infrastructure for biotechnology in Bioeconomy Arena is food-grade approved as well as certified for genetically modified microorganisms. Food-grade approval is important, not only because it allows products to be developed that can be used for food production, but it also ensures that the environment is clean, which is also important for the production of other products.

– “The facility will also have what we call online analysis, which means that analytical instruments measure the processes in real time,” says Alriksson.

Westin adds that corresponding testbeds will also be available in the field of chemistry, which is invaluable since the technologies used in biotechnology and chemistry often overlap.

Aviation fuel – or alternatives to meat

RISE researchers have already developed several products using biotechnology. For example, aviation fuel produced from sawdust, where enzymes are first used followed by fermentation, as well as a single-cell protein that can be used for human consumption or as animal feed. The single-cell protein was created by growing protein-rich microorganisms on residues from the forest industry.

– “The technique can be used to develop protein-rich alternatives to meat or as an ingredient in animal feed,” says Alriksson.

Through Bioeconomy Arena, organisations can conduct research and demonstrate that a process works on a large scale, as well as produce a sufficient amount of a substance or material to be able to verify it on the market. Bioeconomy Arena is geared towards different types of companies, such as paper pulp mills, sawmills, and forestry companies that all produce residues, companies interested in developing technologies involving microorganisms, industries that today produce plastics, animal feed or foods, as well as academia. The infrastructure is open to anyone who is interested.

Why should these companies choose RISE as a partner?

– “We have well-developed infrastructure, a talented team of experts, we are quick on our feet and we operate in an innovation-friendly environment,” says Alriksson.

– “I’d also like to emphasise that the capacity of Bioeconomy Arena exists in a context that includes techno-economics, process simulation, and lifecycle analyses, for example,” says Westin. “It’s always possible to find optimal collaboration within RISE.”

Bioeconomy Arena

Bioeconomy Arena brings together RISE infrastructure for the development, scale-up, and commercialisation of new biobased products and solutions. Through close collaboration with industry, a flexible innovation environment from the lab to the pilot- and demo scale has been built, enabling development along entire value chains. Here scientific excellence, state-of-the-art technology and entrepreneurs  are brought together to increase the pace of transition towards a bioeconomy and a resilient society.

Published: 2022-06-22
Gunnar Westin

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Gunnar Westin

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Björn Alriksson

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