Global Bioeconomy and the Role of Industrial Biotechnology

Global bioeconomy, also known as knowledge based bioeconomy (KBBE) or bio-based economy, is defined as the economy based on sustainable production of foods, chemicals, medicines, lubricants, solvents, cosmetics, biotherapeutics, biopolymers, bioplastics and biofuels from renewable biological resources

This includes biomass from plant and animal sources. The term “bioeconomy” was first used by Rodrigo Martinez and Juan Enríquez, in 1997, at American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) meeting http://Enríquez-Cabot, Juan. “Genomics and the World’s Economy.” Science 281 (14 August 1998): 925-926.
Economy of many countries is based on the advancement of their industrial sectors. Thus such countries have been utilizing industrial biotechnology tools to manufacture efficient environmental-friendly industrial products from economical biological raw materials instead of expensive, pollution enhancing non-renewable resources. The use of appropriate technology in processing and manufacturing has not only improved efficiency of production and quality of products but also facilitated trade and development cooperation internationally. Specifically, during the past two decades industrial biotechnology has greatly revolutionized the bioeconomy of European Union (EU) countries, United States and Japan by escalating product diversification and productivity value of industrial based bio-products.

Need of Bioeconomy:

Currently there are a number of economic, social and environmental challenges, such as; climate change, increase in population, upsurge in emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and access to water or food that need to be tackled by the world in order to provide healthy, safe and prosperous life to the future generations. Particularly with the escalation in population growth, the demand for both renewable as well as non-renewable resources has increased. In order to meet this increased demand, bio-based products are manufactured from biological raw materials (bioeconomy) through industrial biotechnology.
Bioeconomy is expected to provide global food security, produce healthier food, make industrial processing cleaner and more efficient, mitigate the climate change, diminish the use of fossil fuels and reduce the environmental impact of agricultural activities, fisheries and manufacturing industries.

Purpose of Bioeconomy:

The purpose of bioeconomy is to
• Develop a knowledge and innovation based economy.
• Promote a more resource efficient, energy saving and more competitive economy.
• Foster a high employment economy delivering social and territorial cohesion.
• Control inflation

Role of Industrial Biotechnology in Bioeconomy:

Industrial biotechnology has transformed bioeconomy through economical but efficient industrial processes that have no harmful impact on environment. Even, the raw materials used in these processes are obtained from different generations of biomass which include;
• First generation biomass (crops)
• Second generation biomass (crop refuge)
• Third generation biomass (microorganisms such as; seaweed or algae)

After selection of source of raw material, several methods of industrial processing are used to obtain maximum amount of product out of biomass. These methods include: fermentation, anaerobic digestion, torrefaction and pyrolysis etcetera. Anaerobic digestion is generally used to produce biogas, fermentation of sugars produces ethanol and acids, pyrolysis is used to produce pyrolysis-oil (which is solidified biogas), and torrefaction is used to create biomass-coal.

1. Fermentation is a key process used in many of the industrial applications. It is generally used to produce ethanol, from sugars, which is then used as a biofuel. To manufacture ethanol from non-food biomass, industrial biotechnologists from DEINOVE have developed a novel strain of Deinococcus bacteria that can produce up to 9% ethanol. This development has set the groundwork for commercialization of the lignocellulosic ethanol manufacturing process with 60 fold improvement in ethanol production.

2. Enzyme biocatalysis is another major biotechnology technique with wide industrial application. It involves replacement of expensive chemical catalysts with economical industrial enzymes for production of bio-based products. The industrial enzymes are slightly different from natural enzymes as they are modified through gene or protein engineering in order to increase their efficiency and productivity. They have been generally divided into four categories namely;
(i) Food enzymes that are derived by gene technology and are commercially used since 1990s
(ii) Feed enzymes are incorporated in animal feed to increase absorption of nutrients by body cells and degrade harmful substances which leads to pollution control by reducing fecal nutrient value applied to land
(iii) Technical enzymes are utilized in paper and pulp, textile, biofuel, leather and chemical industries. The industrial enzymes or biocatalysts are generally used for cost savings and greater sustainability of bio-based products.
In 2013, the global market for industrial enzymes was valued at just over 4 billion USD but is expected to reach around USD 7.1 billion by 2019.

3. Healthcare industry is one of the most vital sectors in global bioeconomy. In fact, the extensive growth of industrial biotechnology is mainly because of its applications in this industry which has facilitated production of commercial biopharmaceuticals, monoclonal antibodies, enzyme modulators, hormones, vaccines and other healthcare products such as interferons from laboratory grown plant and animal cell cultures.
Biopharmaceuticals generated by modern industrial biotechnology techniques are by far the fastest-growing part of the whole pharmaceutical industry as their global cumulative sales has reached the value of USD 140 billion. As far as the monoclonal antibody market is concerned, it is estimated to be worth no less than USD 75 billion. Thus, representing almost half of the total sales of all biopharmaceutical products. 

Benefits of Bioeconomy:

• Environmental friendly
• Improve productivity and sustainability of products
• Saves fossil resources
• Raw materials used for production of products are obtained from renewable resources


Global bioeconomy is the sustainable production of foods, chemicals, medicines, biotherapeutics, bioplastics and biofuels from renewable biological resources. Its major objective is to optimize the value and contribution of ecosystem services to the economy. As the economy of many countries is based on their industrial and natural resources, therefore, industrial biotechnology is being used to manufacture efficient, environmental-friendly industrial products from cheap biological raw materials instead of expensive, pollution enhancing natural resources in these countries.

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