26 October 2021
That was the answer from panellist Ole Kaae Hansen - biosolution pioneer, entrepreneur and business angel, when asked why it is so difficult to scale up biosolutions. “You usually have to invent everything yourself because it is not standardized equipment and processes you are working with”.
The question came at a panel debate at the conference “From residue to revenue – Scaling up biosolutions” held on October 14th at Danish Technological Institute as part of the project Pro-Enrich.
Biosolutions can be defined as products or solutions, which include enzymes, proteins, bacteria, bio-active compounds, biomaterials, etc. At commercial scale bio-based products can for example be used in the food industry for ingredients or to replace fossil-based chemicals or materials to name a few. The applications are almost endless, but biosolution companies are often competing with well-established competitors that have spent decades optimizing their production resulting in very low prices, and whom the legislation and regulation is built to fit around.
A panel consisting of investors and biosolution professionals discussed how we overcome the challenges of a technological field that is very promising as it can reduce our dependence of fossil resources and animal husbandry, but also still emerging. And like most other emerging sectors, companies are faced with struggles such as regulative barriers, lack of awareness from consumers, and limited access to venture capital due to high capital expenditures to establish production facilities and often unfavourable regulations.
There was agreement among the panellists representing the capital and funding side that investors need to be willing to take risks if we are to advance many of the biosolution start-ups and scale-ups out there. Michael Nettersheim, Managing Partner in European Circular Bioeconomy Fund, acknowledged that risk is what is driving returns, and Programming Director of Biobased Industries Consortium Nelo Emerencia, agreed that failure should not be feared as it can be the foundation for succeeding next time. Eric-Alan Rapp from the Danish Growth Fund pointed to fact that we are standing on a burning platform and that investors should focus on the ideas with the biggest potential to solve the global challenges.
For entrepreneurs hoping to attract venture capital the message was clear: Make sure there is a market fit and make a viable business plan. Even if you deviate from it, you need to know what you are deviating from. And make sure that you are introspective and self-aware of your own shortcomings – with respect to your team as well as the overall sustainability of your business – so you can work to improve it.
There was general agreement among all panellists that there is a need for pricing of externalities – in other words that polluters pay for polluting. A carbon tax can even out the playing field and provide the biosolutions companies with more fair market conditions.
“The main take away from the panel discussion today was that companies, investors, and policy makers have to accept and even embrace risk in an emerging sector with a lot of promise. My advice is to not try and make it alone, but to seek out knowledge, support, and cooperation to overcome your challenges” says Lars Horsholt Jensen, COO of Food & Bio Cluster Denmark and moderator of the debate.
The conference was the final event of the project Pro-Enrich, a BBI-JU funded project, focused on upcycling side streams from food production. Some of the product results regarding protein extraction from rapeseed press cake, tomato, citrus peels, and olive pomace were shared by Anne Christine Hastrup, director at the Centre for Bioresources at the Danish Technological Institute, and project partners from GEA Westfalia and Natac Biotech gave presentations about useful technology and how to determine the commercial viability of different types of biomass before setting out to valorise it for bio-based products.
The slides from the event are available here.
For more information please contact Louise Krogh Johnson, business development manager at Food & Bio Cluster Denmark and Pro-Enrich Dissemination Manager at email@example.com / +45 2154 5909.
”There is no recipe!”