The Europe-wide BIOCHEM project offers SMEs the market insight, business and technical tools, and access to people and resources to drive their innovations with bio-based products.
In biotechnology, the greatest potential for innovation lies in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). This is why the European Commission funded BIOCHEM project seeks to help SMEs to innovate in the bio-based products market. The partnership is run by 17 innovation-focused organisations from 8 countries under the Europe INNOVA umbrella.
The EU currently accounts for 30% of the global €58 billion bio-based products market which is expected to more than treble by 2020. These products can substitute fossil fuels with plant matter and include plastics, lubricants, surfactants, enzymes and pharmaceuticals. While climate change and energy security are driving consumption of renewable feedstocks, there is growing business case for the use of bio-based products too.
A comprehensive assessment of the European bio-based products market has already been carried out by BIOCHEM, including identifying barriers to innovation. Unfortunately, the list is long – from a lack of awareness of the potential of bio-based products and limited contacts between companies to poor access to new supply chains, demonstration facilities and investment capital.
BIOCHEM is attempting to overcome these barriers by developing a software-based toolbox to help SMEs innovate, setting up an online partnering platform and working with 250 individual SMEs to help them make the most of this platform.
The toolbox, largely completed by spring 2011, urges companies to start with a self-assessment of their current and potential development of bio-based products. It provides an array of innovation-support tools from business-plan assessments and advice on intellectual-property management to an online directory of public and private funding opportunities.
At the same time, the online partnering platform lets SMEs get in touch with one another as well as large industries, academics, laboratories, consultancies, public authorities and funders – in other words, people with whom to share ideas and take projects forward. By mid 2011, 3 600 contacts were listed on the networking site.
There is also a physical dimension – BIOCHEM is organising four networking events which provide an opportunity for entrepreneurs to promote their companies, obtain a comprehensive briefing on the toolbox and present to venture capitalists. During the October 2011 event, BIOCHEM also announces the winner of its Business Plan Competition.
To ensure maximum use of its toolbox, partnering site and events, BIOCHEM is taking 250 SMEs through what it has to offer. From autumn 2011, each will get an individual audit and help in drawing up a business-development plan to innovate in the bio-based products sector. They will benefit from personal mentoring, entrepreneurial classes and assistance in identifying testing facilities, funders and customers.
Lead market initiative for bio-based products: