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Chemical Industry Weekly Innovation News Round-up, March 9
March 9, 2012 | By ALEX SCOTT
No single major innovation or technology development stand out this week - but there are some fascinating developments across a range of fronts.
In plant biotechnology, Bayer CropScience has acquired the germplasm assets of ProSoy Genetics, the soybean breeding division of privately-held Thompson Agronomics (Leland, IO).
FMC says it has agreed with Kumiai Chemical Industry (Tokyo) to evaluate the potential for development and commercialization of a new herbicide.
The European Commission has proposed that the region takes “decisive action” to accelerate innovation relating to key raw materials, and agricultural products, by starting-up two European Innovation Partnerships (EIPs). The European Union (EU) increasingly is drawing chemistry and the broader chemical industry into its plans for sustainable manufacturing in the region.
A group of research institutes in the Warsaw area have grouped together to collaborate on green chemistries. They aim to make technologies they develop accessible to industry. The collaboration is the first of its kind in Poland and follows a model applied successfully across other parts of Europe including Finland.
On the pharma front researchers have developed nanofibers from proteins that have the potential to change the way drugs can be delivered in the human body.
In a blog, guest editor Nadim Chaudhry, CEO of Green Power Conferences details a survey from which he concludes future investments in biofuels will be in Asia.
Beyond Chemical Week...
Lux Research (Boston, MA), a market research group, this week published its pick of the 10 most innovative companies in the fourth quarter of 2011. The activities of this diverse group of chemical and materials developers make for interesting reading. According to Lux "Proterro stands out for its disruptive potential, while Diamon-Fusion, Topell Energy, and eiQ Energy make the grade with well-executed business strategies, says Lux Research." My pick of the bunch is Proterro - a developer of a process for making sugars from photosynthetic organisms. The company says its production of sugars via its technology would be 10 times more efficient than sugarcane. Proterro's activities are outlined in an article featured in Chemical Week in 2011. Lux's selection of 10 companies are listed below:
With its transparent silicone film used to coat silica-based substrates, Diamon-Fusion is one of the few startups in the protective coatings space with strong technical and business execution track records.
Proterro is commercializing a strain of photosynthetic organism that produces sugars at levels ten times more productive than sugarcane and in a configuration that could deliver the holy grail of ”five cent” sugars (i.e. five cents per pound), but it will need funding and downstream partners to scale its potential breakthrough technology beyond a lab prototype.
Working with German utility RWE, Topell Energy scaled its first commercial torrefaction facility in 2011 to convert wood waste into bio-coal pellets. Topell is a leader in the torrefaction space and is positioned to capitalize on healthy incentives in the EU for coal/bio-coal co-firing.
With the growing grid penetration of renewable energy sources and the inherent difficulty in managing their fluctuating inputs, Spirae could be in a prime position to support utility infrastructure with its comprehensive control and management system if it can prove its concept on a large scale and secure long-term utility contracts.
One of the few DC/DC optimizer companies staying with stand-alone hardware, eIQ partners with engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) companies who can realize its technology’s value in the strong commercial market segment.
Using a technology honed for the One Laptop per Child program, Pervasive Displays produces low-power electrophoretic display modules that target application developers for warehouse signage and electronic shelf labels. While Pervasive has power advantages from its control functions, it will need to drive its costs down to compete with more established competitors and access a broader market.
A high-risk but high-profit U.S. nuclear contamination control company that rapidly scaled to clean up the Japanese Fukushima radioactive cooling water problem to the tune of massive windfall profits when no one else on the planet was prepared to deal with the problem.
Hycrete’s water barrier technology improves the durability of concrete infrastructure at prices significantly cheaper than the incumbent membrane-based approach, but it will need to establish partnerships with well-known infrastructure or chemical companies to gain market access in the conservative infrastructure segment.
In the sea of Chinese lithium-ion battery developers, state-owned MGL stands out for its traction in China’s electric and hybrid-electric bus market. Its strong government relationships could provide ready channels to market for would-be foreign technology partners, but competition with other domestic firms such as China Aviation Lithium Battery Corporation (CALB) will be fierce.
Ablynx engineers its “nanobodies” – therapeutic proteins derived from antibodies in camel blood – to specifically deliver small molecule drugs to a target site. Despite stiff competition in the saturated antibody field and a multitude of emerging targeting strategies (such as DNA aptamers), Ablynx has snagged more than its share of heavyweight partners (Boehringer Ingelheim, Merck Serono, Norvartis, Pfizer), and is generating tens of millions in revenue to assist in its own healthy development pipeline.