Welcome to the fourth RoadToBio newsletter

This newsletter to introduce you to a new method for classifying bio-based chemicals under three categories

Dear Reader,

Welcome to the fourth RoadToBio newsletter. Our roadmap for increasing the bio-based portfolio and improving the sustainability of the European chemical industry is already shaping up.

In this newsletter we would like to introduce you to a new method for classifying bio-based chemicals under three categories: drop-ins, smart drop-ins and dedicated bio-based chemicals. This classification is based on how the bio-based chemical compares to its fossil-based counterpart, and therefore how it interacts with existing value chains to replace fossil-based chemicals or products. The RoadToBio project and roadmap will benefit from this new classification method, especially considering the large number of diverse and uncategorised bio-based chemicals which will be included and which are likely to require different approaches and market strategies to replace their fossil incumbents.

We hope you enjoy the read and remain with best regards,

Mladen Crnomarković
On behalf of the RoadToBio consortium ­


Please consider – if not done already – to subscribe to the RoadToBio newsletter. ­

Bio-based drop-in, smart drop-in and dedicated chemicals

In 2014 the BIO-TIC project introduced the definition of drop-in biochemicals as: chemically identical bio-based versions of petrochemicals which have established markets. In 2017 nova-Institute and their colleagues from the RoadToBio consortium identified a separate sub-category of smart drop-in in biochemicals for which the production pathways have significant advantages compared to their identical fossil-based counterpart, and a third category of bio-based chemicals which do not have an identical fossil-based counterpart (dedicated bio-based chemicals).

These three categories of bio-based chemicals: drop-ins, smart drop-ins, and dedicated biochemicals; have distinct characteristics, and each integrate in a particular way with existing fossil chemical value chains (Figure 1).


Bio-based drop-ins are defined as chemically identical to their fossil-based counterparts. Therefore bio-based chemicals classed as ‘drop-ins’ tend to replace high-volume commodity chemicals such as bio-based ethylene, polyethylene, polyethylene terephthalate, propylene/polypropylene, methane, etc. It is generally relatively easy to integrate bio-based drop-ins into existing chemical production chains, as existing infrastructure can be used for their distribution and processing. Therefore they can enter value chains at a relatively early stage (Figure 1). Bio-based drop-ins usually offer advantages in their environmental footprint, however, they are often more expensive to produce than their fossil counterparts, presenting a barrier to their uptake.

Bio-based smart drop-ins are a subset of drop-ins, which have two or more of the following characteristics: high biomass utilisation efficiency, low energy use in their production, short or less complex production pathway, and/or fewer toxic chemicals used in their production. Smart drop-ins tend to enter the existing fossil chemical value chain at a later stage (Figure 1) as they are likely to be replacing fossil-based chemicals that have undergone several process steps. As a consequence, smart drop-ins will usually be commodities of smaller volume compared to normal drop-ins. Some examples of smart bio-based drop-ins are: epichlorohydrin, 1,3-propanediol, 1,4-butanediol, and succinic acid.

Dedicated bio-based chemicals do not have a chemically identical fossil-based counterpart. They often cannot be obtained through conventional/fossil pathways, therefore have their own dedicated production pathway and value chain (Figure 1). Dedicated bio-based chemicals are in general more efficient in utilising not only carbon, but the whole biomass, and avoid breaking down more complex molecules into simpler parts. Examples of dedicated bio-based chemicals include cellulose fibres, itaconic acid, polyhydroxy alkanoates, and furans such as hydroxymethyl furfural, furfural and 2,5-Furandicarboxylic acid.

To learn more about the new concept for classifications of bio-based chemicals read nova’s full paper on bio-based drop-ins, smart drop-ins and dedicated bio-based chemicals.
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Join the network

We would like to invite you to join us on the journey to a more bio-based chemical industry. The roadmap should contain clear, realistic goals. Your knowledge and experience is necessary to create a market relevant roadmap with a high impact. Therefore, we will conduct workshops and webinars to involve you as stakeholder.

Your opinion is of utmost importance to us. Through your participation, you get the opportunity to help shape the development process and to find your opinion later in the roadmap.


Upcoming event ­

­On June 19th, the second RoadToBio workshop will take place in Brussels.

We would like to invite you to this second RoadToBio workshop. Together with you, we would like to work out the topic of bio-based chemicals, develop and discuss opportunities for the chemical industry.

We offer you the opportunity to create the path to a bioeconomic future and help shape it.
Make a reservation for this date and contact us at lea.koenig@dechema.de ­
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What you can expect from the next newsletter

In the next newsletter we will present the webinar “The best of two worlds – making chemicals more bio-based”. In this webinar, three project partners discussed the importance and possibilities of biotechnology in the context of the chemical industry and demonstrated its potential.

Previously in the project identified opportunities to introduce bio-based chemicals into existing fossil-based process chains are shown and the definitions presented here are applied directly to practical examples. Do not miss the next newsletter.

Introduction of the RoadToBio Team ­

The consortium of this two-year project, which started in May 2017, consists of four members:

They bring in complementary expertise in relevant fields of the bioeconomy and chemical industry, covering in depth all aspects that need to be included in the roadmap.
This project has received funding from the Bio-Based Industries Joint Undertaking under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 745623.


RoadToBio newsletter February 2018, 2018-02.


Bio-based Industries (BBI) Joint Undertaking
Biomass Technology Group BV (BTG)
DECHEMA Gesellschaft für Chemische Technik und Biotechnologie e.V.
nova-Institut GmbH