The EU is diligently moving forward with plans to bolster industrial biotechnology innovation in Europe, and the BIOCHEM project has risen to the challenge to meet this goal. Supported under the European Commission’s INNOVA programme, BIOCHEM is a pan-European project providing backing for businesses, especially small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), wishing to become active in the rapidly emerging market of bio-based products.
Launched in 2010, BIOCHEM has already laid the groundwork to bring industrial biotechnology innovation in Europe to fruition. SMEs have expressed their keenness to innovate in the field of biomass-generated products including bio-plastics, bio-lubricants, surfactants, enzymes and pharmaceuticals.
High on the BIOCHEM agenda are improvements in the innovation capacity of bio-based chemistry SMEs and start-ups; the finalisation of a comprehensive assessment of the European bio-based products market; and the development of a new integrated toolbox for providing support to companies, to name just a few.
In less than a year, the BIOCHEM partners have succeeded in meeting one of these goals. They performed a comprehensive assessment of the needs, barriers and opportunities specific to the bio-based products market. According to the partners, they have also set up a partnership platform that will enable SMEs to exchange ideas and secure cooperation with both research and business partners looking to enter this market.
Bio-products, which focus on renewable, biological raw materials like trees and plants, represent one of Europe’s ‘lead markets’. Interest about where bio-based products can replace products based on other raw materials has grown in the EU.
‘We have achieved an enormous amount in the first year of the BIOCHEM project,’ says Dr Steve Fletcher, BIOCHEM project coordinator at Chemistry Innovation Ltd in the UK. ‘Our BIOCHEM business toolbox should be fully operational by April, we have assembled pieces of high quality information to support the project, and we have identified SMEs across Europe that can take advantage of all this.’
The toolbox is being designed to be accessible through the Europe INNOVA portal. Comprised in this innovative system are business planning and lifecycle analysis tools. Interested parties will have access to facilities, partners and funding. SMEs based in Europe will benefit immensely from this toolkit, using it to make their innovative ideas a reality. The toolkit will also give them the boost they need to speed up their growth within the bio-based market, the BIOCHEM partners say.
‘In March we will train about 40 individuals – National Innovation Managers – in the use and application of the toolbox,’ Dr Fletcher says. ‘Then the work can begin to assess the potential of each company and provide it with information tailored to its specific profile and needs.’
The experts have established an extensive database of key SMEs and start-ups in the EU that could profit from BIOCHEM’s support. The BIOCHEM experts will audit 100 experts this year. They predict that at least 250 SMEs will have been helped by BIOCHEM once it comes to an end.
Participating in the BIOCHEM project are experts from Belgium, Germany, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Finland and the UK.
Europe INNOVA, funded under the European Commission’s Directorate-General Enterprise and Industry, is on the fast track of becoming the laboratory for the development, testing and promotion of new tools and instruments in order to fuel innovation across the region. Ultimately, enterprises seeking to become more innovative and enter a technologically advanced market are benefiting most from this initiative.
Cordis Nachrichten, 2011-02-09.