Mike Guggenheimer, President & CEO of RSC Bio Solutions
Leading industry events such as World Bio Markets USA allow me the opportunity to interact with colleagues and representatives from biobased fuel and chemical companies. At the upcoming conference in October, I have the privilege of presenting on the successful supply chain integration with biobased industrial market applications with Glenn King, Marketing Manager at Jacobsen. The presentation will cover how Jacobsen and RSC Bio Solutions worked together to successfully launch a profitable brand of biobased hydraulic fluids in the golf industry. As a preview to that presentation, I was asked by the conference to answer a few questions on biobased products and the future of the biobased industry and wanted to share them with you.
Just how important do you believe feedstock flexibility is for securing the longevity of a biobased company?
As a downstream player commercializing end use products using biobased raw materials, feedstock flexibility is important to the extent it increases supply availability without creating any inconsistency in the material. Often when we explore new materials it is important to understand capacity, lead times and delivery point options. If feedstock flexibility can create more capacity or more localized supply options, then it can be helpful. Sometimes this is even necessary for consideration as a new option. With that said, the longevity of our biobased business is far more dependent on our ability to create application value for end users than feedstock flexibility.
When it comes to biobased chemical off-taker market adoption which sectors are ahead of the curve and already using biobased chemicals regularly? What industry sector do you believe will become the ‘honey-pot’ for biobased chemical producers?
We see more uptake in biobased chemicals coming from sectors where biotechnology is solving primarily for a problem other than environmental sustainability or reducing dependence on petroleum. Sustainability programs—now ubiquitous—are driving interest in environmentally acceptable options, but the sectors really adopting biobased technology are driven by other issues, such as mitigating reputational risk, delivering health and safety benefits, complying with regulations or lowering operating costs. For example, we see adoption in industrial markets where heavy equipment is operating in sensitive environments such that a petroleum-based chemical spill or exposure could be costly, like offshore drilling vessels and work truck fleets. In consumer markets, a product that might come in close contact with a child or a pet—such as a household cleaner, where the benefits are focused on personal health and safety—is seeing faster commercialization. The honey-pot sectors are the ones where a biobased company can position a quick sustainability payback as a secondary or tertiary benefit behind some other kind of value delivered.
What role do you believe synthetic biology will have in advancing the biobased products available?
We are further downstream in the value chain, so this is a difficult question to answer. Broadly, research and development activity that leads to new ways to deliver chemistry which optimizes a combination of environmental safety, superior performance, and cost effectiveness should grow the overall market for alternatives to conventional chemistry. The industry is evolving. We can’t expect to replace all conventional, petroleum based chemistry with completely renewable, plant-based and biobased technology overnight. As momentum builds through commercial success of generally safer options, the adoption rate will accelerate across a range of technical solutions, including synthetic biology. At RSC Bio Solutions, we offer products that are derived primarily from plant-based ingredients for some applications. For other more rigorous applications the state-of-the-art biobased raw materials are insufficient from a performance standpoint and we work in the safest synthetic components possible to solve the user problem. The key to longer term advancement of industrial biotechnology is being able to deliver dependable solutions to show end users what is possible.