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Who is there?
Portugal is home to one of the largest pulp and paper multinationals, Portucel-Soporcel. This company is seeking new markets and investing in R&D to set-up advanced biorefineries coupled to existing pulp and paper factories. One of the projects aims at the production of fermentable sugars from forest-based biomass and existing waste streams. Demonstration activities target the production of ethanol and bioplastics.
Biotrend is a spin-off of the Centre for Biological and Chemical Engineering of the University of Lisbon. The staff consists of 50% PhD’s and 50% MSc’s and operates state-of-the art facilities for bioprocess development. It is a research-based company offering advanced services in bioprocess development, optimisation and scale-up specifically for industrial biotechnology. Biotrend participates in 7 EU-funded projects in the bioeconomy field.
A4F is a company dedicated to the development and delivery of bioengineering projects for the industrial production of micro-algae. The company has successfully implemented a prototype at a cement plant, converting CO2 to biomass in tubular photobioreactor systems.
Madebiotech is located in Madeira and aims to develop and to promote the concept of sustainable biorefinery for different types of biomass, using processes with low environmental impact and high technological content.
Biomimetx is a recent start-up company which discovered and owns an environmental bacterium that secretes high levels of natural antimicrobials and algaecides to be used in various industrial applications for biofouling control.
BLC3 was created to promote the development of 2nd and 3rd generation biorefineries and promote the potential of Portugal’s central region as a piloting case for the integrated sustainable development of territories via the bioeconomy.
Various universities and research centres are active in the topic of industrial biotechnology and actively participate in international collaborative research programmes (ex. funded by the EU, such as FP7, H2020, ERA-IB, etc). The main academic players are:
Universidade de Lisboa, Centre for Biological and Chemical Engineering
REQUIMTE, joint initiative of Universidade Nova de Lisboa/Universidade do Porto
Universidade do Minho, Department of Biological Engineering
Universidade de Aveiro, biorefineries, biobased materials and recycling research group
Companies to watch
Silicolife is a spin-off company from the MIT-Portugal programme (a collaborative programme on research and innovation between Portuguese Universities and the MIT). The focus of Silicolife lies in computational biology for the optimization of microorganisms for industrial biotechnology processes. Silicolife was ranked one of the 40 “hottest” small companies in the world in the advanced bioeconomy.
Biocant Park is a business incubator fully devoted to biotech businesses and hosts a pilot plant facility specifically dedicated to industrial biotechnology with bioreaction capacities up to 250 litres. Biocant Park is a joint initiative of the municipality of Cantanhede, University of Coimbra and University of Aveiro and forms a unique ecosystem covering the entire innovation pipeline, from knowledge generation and HR training to the market, including tech transfer, financing, scientific dissemination and industrial production.
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More than 35% of the Portuguese continental territory is occupied by forests and 2 million tons of forest residues are available each year, which provides an interesting potential source of biomass non-competing with food. In addition, due to the significance of the forest-derived economical sector in Portugal (pulp and paper, cork, wood panels and furniture), much of the logistics of supply of the raw material is already available.
Portugal has applied to have its continental shelf extended. If accepted by the UN, the country could access the untapped potential of marine biodiversity, including high performing industrial enzymes, new microbes, etc. A national network of marine bioresources is being set up, largely driven by the private sector and there is a surge of businesses related to the marine bioeconomy.