With the end in sight, the importance of the Dutch Biobased Performance Materials program, in which research institutes and businesses are collaborating to develop new biobased plastics, was underscored when it was publically announced that more funding was being made available. Rather than cutting the program, some €3 million to 6 million ($4 million to 8 million) will be channeled into additional research on and the development of cost-competitive biobased performance materials (BPM) over the next four years.
|Image courtesy Stuart Miles/freedigitalphotos.net.|
The program is also hoping for an additional €3 million grant from NWO, the national research council responsible for promoting quality and innovation in science.
"Getting funding is not easy these days, so it's a real achievement that the value of this program has been recognized," said Christiaan Bolck, director of the BPM program in Wageningen, with satisfaction.
Coordinated by Wageningen UR Food & Biobased Research, participants in the program include more than 30 industrial partners and five research institutions. The first projects in the Biobased Performance Materials (BPM) program will end this year; the results from the ongoing projects were presented at the annual symposium, which took place on June 12, 2014, where presentations were delivered on the biobased alternatives for new classes of polymer materials developed. Researchers also reported on the bioplastic materials and products—films, bottles and resins—that were developed and tested in cooperation with the various participating companies.
One promising project, presented by Wageningen researcher Jacco van Haveren and participated in by DSM, BASF, Synbra, and Green ICT, concerned the development of biobased drop-in bulk chemicals from biomass. The challenge in that project was to find an economically viable pathway to produce styrene and (meth)acrylic acid from biomass. The research yielded two potential platform biochemical. A patent application has been filed and, already, a number of industrial partners have shown an interest in continuing this research.
Although not all materials researched were found to have the same essential characteristics as their fossil counterparts, significant progress was made. Another point of focus was research into the unique properties of biobased materials, such as the improved shelf life of food in biobased packaging.
In the past, projects were mainly targeted at the development of materials from biobased building blocks, while future projects also will focus on materials based on natural polymers, such as starch, cellulose, and chitin.
And even more products. Today, the focus of the program is on output, said Bolck. "The new BPM program is an umbrella program with two tracks: the first, demand driven projects for industry, which involve applied research; and second, demand driven projects for universities, in which the research is more fundamental in nature," he added. Combining both streams in a single program will ensure a maximum interaction between industry and academia.
Projects involving cooperation between companies and research institutes can be submitted from this point on. Grants will be decided based on demand and under the supervision of the BPM project office. Companies and research institutes interested in participating in projects can contact the BPM project office.