Our new PhD student (starting in September) is Hamed Mohammadifardi, an expert in LCA water footprinting, who will be working primarily with Professor Dias. Hamed provided the following trip report from lectures at the http://www.bioproductscentre.com/ on June 5, 2013.
Among three speakers, I found Dr. Manfred Kircher most interesting. He compared the oil industry and bio industry and depicted the paradigm shifts in oil-based economy. For example, the number of actors will become more (shared power) in biofuel/product industry; however they are not coordinated as efficiently as the actors in oil industry. He mentioned how the logistic system is more complicated and extended in biomass supply chain by contrasting the one point energy sources (oil, gas, and coal mines) to the spatially-extended, land-attached (biomass) energy sources; moving from dense populations to distributed population. He further touched constrains for reaching the economy of scale in biorefinery plants because of the operational obstacles (congestion problem).
The two other speakers pointed that there are enough market incentives for scaling up the biofuels/products projects (there is no need for more mandates), instead, regulatory requirement should open barriers for technological developments and innovations (e.g. Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) biotechnology). Oil industries has never been judged and criticized as extensively and doubtfully as bio industries.
Bio-economy development will decouple the oil and food market price; it will set more related industries than in the oil economy. 96% of the earth biomass sources are not utilized and biotechnology should not just mimic the oil-driven molecules, but build new and more functional molecules (durable taste for Coca-Cola, and less durable plastic-packages)
It was a good combination of representatives from industry, government, and consulting:
Dr. John Williams, Bio-economy consultant; http://www.nnfcc.co.uk/
Dr. Manfred Kircher, Industrial Biotechnology Cluster; http://www.clib2021.de/en/
Dr. Fireovid, USA, Agricultural Research Service; http://www.ars.usda.gov/main/main.htm