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Europe has a critical shortage of growth capacity for biomanufacturing new biobased products. "There is a squeeze already and we see it still increasing," said Adam Burja, Head of Biotechnology at dsm-firmenich. He was speaking at EFIB 2023 in Rotterdam at the end of October at a CBE JU-sponsored session on Europe's industrial transformation.
Pierre Gielen / Rotterdam

Dsm-firmenich focuses on developing and manufacturing bionatural products for the health and nutrition sectors. Created last spring from a merger of Dutch DSM and Swiss Firmenich, the company has operations worldwide, some 30% of which are within Europe. However, for building new large-scale plants, it is mainly looking at sites elsewhere.

Change of strategy

Burja pointed at the launch of commercial production facilities of two successful joint ventures: Avansya (microbiologically produced stevia without the bitter taste, together with Cargill) and Veramaris (sustainably produced microalgae-based fish feed, together with Evonik). The technology has been developed in Europe. Commercial production, however, which Burja said required “significant investments”, is based in the US, at the dsm-firmenich site in Blair, Nebraska.

What led to this decision? “When looking for locations with space to grow, we ran into capacity problems everywhere in Europe. All locations are fully or nearly saturated. The possibility of future expansion is limited in advance.”

“On top of that, the operating cost to produce in Europe has risen significantly in recent years, caused by a number of factors beyond our control, but which are affecting us. This has led to a change of strategy: in the existing facilities, we will only continue to make higher-value products, the rest will be manufactured elsewhere.”


Burja stressed that the new strategy need not be a doomsday scenario. The change also has positive sides and brings opportunities. “For instance, I see the European Green Deal as a chance for us to introduce new fermentation methods. I am thinking specifically of the opportunities offered by gas fermentation. Europe is historically leading in biotechnology and it is the place where new modes and styles of fermentation were first introduced.”

This does come with the warning that biotechnology in Europe has long been seen as distinct from biomanufacturing. In other parts of the world, the two terms are mentioned in one breath. European Commission President Von der Leyen’s announced Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing Initiative is consequently welcome. “If we talk about biotechnology, biomanufacturing is an inseparable part of it. Without it, we can have the most amazing ideas, but without industrustrial facilities to launch them, they will remain only ideas.”