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The Chinese industrial biotechsector is set to grow at a 20 per cent rate per annum. In 2020 its total turnover should be around 600 billion dollar.
Editorial office / China

At the EFIB 2016, Yin Li, professor at the Tianjin Institute of Industrial Biotechnology, stated that the increased focus on industrial biotech, see the development of biobased materials and/or energy, is mainly driven by the government’s aim to become less dependent on fossil feedstocks. China is highly dependent: roughly 60 per cent of the total volume has to be imported. Yin Li also said that sustainability is a driver, but more of a secondary driver.

The fermentation industry plays a pivotal role in this transition towards a more biobased economy. In 2014, the total turn over of the Chinese sector was around 38 billion euro (volume: 24 million tons). Most of this market is cornered by foreign multinationals such as Novozymes. Domestic producers are relatively small and purely focused on production. Innovation is not their forte, Yin Li said, resulting in enzymes that can not compete in terms of efficiency with state-of-the-art enzymes.

‘The R&D-activity in China in the domain of fermentation/industrial biotech is almost exclusively the domain of universities and other research institutes. In total there are 104 institutes, 89 labs and a work force of 64.000 people in this field. The reliance of the private sector in China on public R&D is not expected to change for the coming decades.’

Yin Li also mentioned several examples of biobased industrial activities in China, such as the production of first (2 million tons per annum) and second generation ethanol (100.000 ton per annum, by a joint-venture between Cofco, Sinopec and Novozymes). For biosuccinic acid there is a 50.000 ton-plant planned in Shandong, and for d-Lactic acid a 10.000 ton-facility, also in Shandong.