The great and the good of Industrial Biotechnology community descended on Philadelphia, PA in July for the 2018 World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology.

IBioIC was joined in Philadelphia by Scottish SMEs Xanthella, Horizon Proteins and 3fBio and formed part of a UK Pavilion exhibiting alongside Biome Bioplastics, BioVale, Centre for Process Innovation and BIOCATNET. IBioIC members were well represented and it was great to see colleagues from Unilever, Lucite, EuropaBio, Oxford BioTrans and BioBase Europe in attendance.

The UK pavilion proved a popular hub for delegates and enquiries to the IBioIC stand were numerous and varied.

The format of the three day Congress is a series of tracked sessions interspersed with plenaries from leaders in the field. The main topics discussed included the latest technical developments in topics such as synthetic biology, advanced biofuels and renewable chemicals but also included some new areas such as algal production technologies and speciality food ingredients, flavours and fragrances as well as a focus on the development of supply chains and end markets.

As regular attendees to World Congress what is evident from the presentations this year is that there is a focus towards using IB to develop products that have higher value applications, with less of a concern about the volume of productions.  Indeed, this shift change towards low volume, high value products is  partly driven by the years of low oil prices making some of the more commodity applications economically challenging but also a recognition that IB is gaining a lot of traction in manufacturing products with niche applications. This trend fits well with goals of the National Plan for IB in Scotland and plays to the strengths of Scotland’s core capabilities as well as of the capabilities of many of the Scottish SMEs who are already working on developing these niche products.

IBioIC chaired a well attended session on extracting value from distillery co-products, entitled “Whisky Galore and more”, showcasing three of the Scottish companies that are involved in developing these technologies. The session triggered a lively Q&A afterwards with a representative of the USDA declaring it the best session of the Congress. 

IBioIC also hosted what has now become something of a tradition at World Congress – our annual Scotch Whisky tasting. Over 70 guests attended this ever popular event which always proves popular among delegates.

The congress ended with a fascinating visit to the Croda chemical site at Atlas Point, Delaware where Croda are in the latter stages of commissioning the first ever ethanol to ethylene oxide plant in the western hemisphere. This is a landmark investment as it represents the start of using ethanol as a C2 platform chemical replacing the petrochemically based ethylene. This was a wonderful opportunity to tour this impressive facility and to glimpse of the future of bio-based chemical production – this truly is a game-chaning facility.

As always the organising body, Biotechnology Industries Organisation (BIO), who are a Network Member of IBioIC, did a fanstastic job of the logistics. The IBioIC team look forward to World Congress in 2019 and to visiting Des Moines, Iowa, the heartland of US US bio-ethanol production.

Co-writen by: Roger Kilburn, Ian Archer, Jude Huggan and Johan Belfrage.