Research

All partners of the Global Bioeconomy Alliance conduct intensive research in the field of bioeconomy. The following sites give an overview of the fields of interest at TUMCS, UQ and UNESP.

One of the alliance`s main objectives for the near future is to intensify common research between the partner universities.

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TUM Campus Straubing for Biotechnology and Sustainability

Scientists at the TUM Campus Straubing conduct basic research and technological developments on biogenic resources. This applies both to their material use, for example in the chemical industry, and to their energetic use. A further research field is the development of strategies for the sustainable and environmentally compatible supply of biogenic resources. In addition, the economic aspects surrounding the production and marketing of biogenic resources are examined. A particular strength of the TUM Campus Straubing is its cross-industry and cross-disciplinary approach, in which the various disciplines work closely together. These include the natural, engineering, ecosystem and economic sciences in order to comprehensively cover questions ranging from molecules to the marketing of biogenic resources. Main fields of research interest are:

  • Biogenic Materials
  • Biotechnology
  • Renewable Energy
  • Sustainable Chemicals & Processes
  • Economics
University of Queensland

The University of Queensland (UQ) is one of Australia’s leading teaching and research universities. For more than a century, UQ has educated and worked with outstanding people to deliver knowledge leadership for a better world.

UQ regularly ranks among the world’s top universities, and with a strong focus on teaching excellence, UQ has won more national teaching awards than any other Australian university.

UQ’s 264,000 graduates are an engaged network of global alumni spanning more than 170 countries, and include approximately 14,000 PhDs. More than 52,000 current students, including more than 16,400 postgraduate students and approximately 18,000 international students from 135 countries, currently study across UQ’s three campuses in South East Queensland.

Our research has global impact, delivered by an interdisciplinary community across six faculties, eight globally recognised research institutes and more than 100 research centres. Emboldened by a record of success and the prospect of contributing answers to the world’s greatest challenges, UQ research strengths include agriculture and food sciences, biological sciences, ecology and environmental science, nanotechnology and bioengineering, and environmental engineering and water management.

This expertise is backed by longstanding collaborations with the most influential environmental and scientific institutions in the world, and plays a critical role in international developments in environmental modelling, marine science, biodiversity conservation, pest management and landscape restoration.

UQ’s expertise in Nanotechnology and Bioengineering research is also transforming basic science into novel materials, devices and processes for improved sustainability and health. Our researchers have extensive global links, including with the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and São Paulo State University (UNESP), with which UQ has partnered to explore the emerging role of biotechnology on future economies. The tripartite agreement has expanded existing research initiatives, identified new opportunities for joint projects, and supported broad academic collaboration, particularly in the areas of healthy and safe foods, renewable resources, and bio-processes engineering.

More information:

Universidade Estadual Paulista

Bioeconomy

General aspects of UNESP research on the theme

In 2014, exports of agricultural and forestry products, food, bioenergy, biotechnology and green chemistry reached $ 2 trillion corresponding to 13% of world trade, exceeding the 10% observed in 2007. These sectors are central to be achieved at least half of the sustainable development goals (SDG ́s) of the United Nations, including food security and ensuring access to energy and health.

On a global scale, developing the bioeconomy is essential in order to preserve and rebuild natural capital and improve the quality of life for a growing world population. For this, there is a set of goals to be achieved. 1) to stimulate collaboration between governments and researchers to optimize the use of resources and to share knowledge. 2) to find ways to measure the development of the bioeconomy and its contributions to the SDG ́s emphasis on priority goals, such as food safety. 3) the bioeconomy needs to be linked to multilateral policies and intergovernmental discussions including discussions by SDG ́s climate and biodiversity and economic policy agreements; in contrast, subsidies on fossil fuels reached an impressive $ $5.3 trillion, or 6.5% of global gross domestic product in 2015. 4) to define the necessary skills and to train human resources to think systemically and develop sustainable basic technologies for the bioeconomy; 5) to prioritize research and development on the subject.

Bioeconomics is the application of biotechnology, understood as the set of technologies based on biological systems, primary production, health and industry. The bioeconomy is based on three elements: 1) advanced knowledge of physiology, biochemistry, genes and complex cellular processes; 2) renewable biomass; 3) integration of biotechnology applications in all sectors to avoid waste, but coproducts of the productive chains. Developing Bioeconomy by following these principles is critical for energy, water and food security. There is no way to separate these four topics. Agriculture is the sector of the economy with higher water consumption (70% in global terms). In Brazil, about a quarter of energy is produced from biomasses and agricultural exports are the main generators of commercial supervision, fundamental for economic and social stability.

Goal – Bioeconomics and food sustainability


Description – Sustainable food production in Brazil aims to supply our population, but also plays a central role in the country’s economic and social stability. Agriculture and livestock are historically responsible for 1/4 of the country’s GDP, 1/3 of jobs and also constitute the main source of trade surplus in our country. Currently, world grain stocks are sufficient for just three months of consumption. It is necessary to increase current production of food in more than 60% by 2050. However, the cultivated area will increase by only 2%. The increase in production will depend on the increase of productivity by adapting crops (plants and animals) to environmental stresses. The scarcity of water deserves attention. According to the UN, about 70% of water consumed on the planet is destined to agriculture and it is expected to increase 19% by 2050. The biotic stresses will also be an important barrier to increased productivity and sustainability of production. Cases of resistance from pests, diseases and weeds are progressively more frequent. The proposals involve mainly the diagnosis of resistance, but the work with natural products can contribute to the solution to resistance problems by enlarging the set of mechanisms which could be explored. Equally challenging will be to develop and diffuse the technologies needed to increase the quality of the food produced in Brazil, considering all its complexity given the particularities of the various consumer markets with different cultural, genetic and age characteristics. Biotechnology certainly will have a role in sustainable food production. Among all 123 GMOs commercial Releases that occurred in Brazil, 83% are destined to agriculture and livestock. Nanotechnology and digital agriculture, in conjunction with biotechnology, will contribute to the effectiveness of studies of physiology, nutrition and genetic improvement and to the sustainable food production. The whole world needs the food produced here in Brazil. Brazil’s economic and social stability depends on increasing food production, which must be supported by increasing productivity, being sustainable and incorporating new quality attributes. Losses should be reduced. With these goals, we need to strengthen partnerships to qualify human resources and develop the technologies needed.

Bioeconomics and water sustainability

Description – Water is our most valuable economic, ecological and social resource. It is essential to preserve the natural cycles and biodiversity to generate energy and to support agricultural and industrial production. The retrieving and preservation of water resources are keys to both the expansion of the bioeconomy and to the production and sustainable development. The FAO estimates that two-thirds of the world’s population face water shortages and that agriculture accounts for 70% of the world consumption of water. The international day of water established by the UN has triggered society’s reflection on fundamental points for the sustainable use of this resource, for example: theme of 2018: Sharing Water; theme of 2015: Water and Sustainable Development; theme of 2014: Water and Energy; theme of 2012: Water and Food Security – The World Thirsts because We’re Hungry; theme of 2007: Dealing with Water Scarcity. In addition to meeting basic needs of the population in Brazil, water is essential to produce food, fibre and energy. About a quarter of the energy we consume is produced from biomass power plants and other 12.6% are produced by hydroelectric stations. Climate change and water scarcity can have a great impact on the national energy production. The World Economic Forum’s report of 2016 lists the rising price of energy, climate change and the water crisis among the five biggest risks that can impact the world in the coming years and decades. Human activities also interfere, directly or indirectly, with water quality. Hydric bodies have the capacity to assimilate human interferences and to auto purify, but this capacity is limited. In average terms, the UN esteems that for each liter of water used for the humanity, 10 liters end up polluted. The water quality preservation is essential for the agriculture activities. An analysis of the sector’s exports in 2012 indicates that a total of 228 billion cubic meters of water were consumed to produce them. This volume would be sufficient to supply 6.14 billion people with 100L per day for a period of one year. To design agricultural, cattle and forest production systems with lesser water consumption is essential to sustainably develop Brazil and its bioeconomics. The creation of the necessary solutions will demand the integration of knowledge in the fields of nanotechnology, biotechnology, genetics, physiology, ecology, digital numerical and farming analysis, for example.
Bioeconomics and circular economy
Description – Sustainable production of biomass has significantly contributed to Brazil’s climate and energy targets and it stands out for generating jobs in economically depressed areas. Sustainable biomass production associated with the concept of cascading biomass creates economically, socially and environmentally sustainable solutions. It is a priority to develop new uses of biomass for greater profitability and new approaches on how to produce them in a sustainable way, with less consumption of natural resources by applying concepts of waste hierarchy and cascade resources. Biomasses are the only renewable sources of carbon in thermal, biological or physical processes for various industrial purposes, especially when it comes to the production of biofuels. It has as characteristics and advantages: low cost and CO2 neutral balance; forest, agro-industrial, municipal and industrial residues can be used; easy storage; it is possible to develop closed cycles with recycling of nutrients; the possibility of a secondary fuel conversion for chemical engines, additives or special chemical products, as monomers. The exploration of biomasses promotes benefits as: 1) Generation of jobs and growth; 2) Resource efficiency – using cascade promotes multiple uses of raw materials, thereby reducing imports; 3) Circular economy – cascade preserves materials of higher value by extending product cycles; 4) Bioeconomy – the world doesn’t have bioeconomy without a diverse set of biological products, in addition to biofuels. Deploy the circular economy will require systemic change by abstracting the economic consumption growth. With renewable energy sources, the circular model builds economic, natural and social capital and is based on three principles: 1) to reduce waste and pollution; 2) to keep products and materials in use; 3) to regenerate natural systems. In a circular economy, economic activity builds and rebuilds the overall health of the system. The concept recognizes the necessity of the economy to work effectively in all the scales – for big and small companies, for organizations and individuals, globally and locally. The transition to a circular economy is not equivalent only to the adjustments intended to reduce the negative impacts of the linear economy. On the contrary, represents a systemic change that creates long-term resilience, generates trade and economic opportunities and provides environmental and social benefits.

Bioeconomics and energy sustainability


Description – In its report of 2016, the world economic forum listed the rise of energy prices as one of the five risks with greater potential of global impact in the next years. In Brazil, 43.5% of energy have renewable sources and more than a quarter of the energy is produced from biomass power plants, such as afforestation wood and coal; ethanol and electric power produced from sugar cane juice, bagasse and straw; biodiesel produced mainly from soybean oil. There is a great potential and need to increase the sustainable production of bioenergy in Brazil. Specifically in the case of ethanol, Brazil has become a product importer, mainly because of the difficulty in increasing the sugar-cane productivity. If the situation remains the same, Brazil will import 12% and 26% of the consumed ethanol in 2018 and 2023, respectively. The substitution of imports will require the expansion of the first and second generation ethanol production. Bioenergy integrates the bioeconomy. The application of the principles and the pursuit of the objectives already mentioned for the bioeconomy could bring great advances for the production of sustainable bioenergy. Our country is the one closest to having a sustainable bioenergy production model that can be exported to other countries. BIOEN programs for sustainable bioenergy production have set five research and development priorities: 1) Sustainable biomass production to produce bioenergy; 2) Technologies to transform biomass into biofuels; 3) Efficient use of biofuels in engines, boilers and industries; 4) Biofactories for biofuels production and co-products processing; 5) Economic, social and environmental sustainability of production chains. To make our energy matrix even more renewable, extending the participation of the energy generated from biomass, it is necessary to constantly produce innovations that guarantee and extend the competitive advantage of the bioenergy producing companies in Brazil. Innovations only happen if it has qualified human resources to propose and develop them. The solutions that are necessary to expand sustainable bioenergy production will require the development and integration of basic and applied knowledge related to the five themes listed by BIOEN, with emphasis on chemistry, physics, engineering, nanotechnology, biotechnology, genetics, physiology, ecology and digital agriculture.