Can Biotech also contribute to finding solutions to global problems? And can it do this whilst empowering the local population and economies of developing countries in a sustainable and ethical way?
Social entrepreneurship already exists in biotech: here are some examples that focus on material sciences with a Green edge which have been recognized by top innovation platforms such as LAUNCH.
Launch is an open accelerator platform founded by NASA, NIKE, the USAID and the US Department State to identify and foster breakthrough ideas for ‘a more sustainable world’.
Launch Nordic on the other hand is a private-public partnership between pioneering Nordic companies and organizations in collaboration with Launch Global partners to include IKEA, Novozymes and Kvadrat, as well as the Global Green Growth Forum (3GF), The Danish EPA, Region Skåne, Malmö Stad, Vinnova (Sweden) and the Capital Region of Denmark.
The general idea is to collaborate and accelerate innovative start-up ideas to bring sustainable creativity to the forefront of the Greentech Revolution – and this is particularly relevant to the biotech field, from Biofuels (and manipulating microalgae), Bioplastics and Sustainable Buildings.
So What sort of Companies did Launch NORDIC 2015 program award?
In Florida (US), Avespa has developed a scalable, productive, cost-effective and highly controlled process to grow algal biomass. This is done by mimicking nature, and thus using enriched water with nitrogen, phosphorus, micronutrients and CO2 from waste treatment facilities.
To scale this method of growing algae, whilst at the same time improving water treatment, generating pure oxygen and capturing the environmentally damaging CO2, David Punchard and his project has managed to run cycles in 10 hours, versus the typical time period of 120 days.
You can also read our review from last month on the growing potential and challenges for Biotech in the Algae Industry.
David Punchard discusses the Launch Nordic Program and Avespa’s Aims
EkoBalans works with the sustainable recycling of nutrients from sewage treatment plants, biogas production plants and farms that have a surplus of manure.
The primary goal is to return nutrientsfrom the EkoBalans’ process to food production, because of the very low levels of metals (e.g. cadmium).
SaproGlue has created an organic glue made of lake sediments (sapropel or gyttja) which is therefore biodegradable, environmentally friendly and contributes to a sustainable management of lake ecosystems.
This natural glue can be used as an alternative to chemical adhesives for composite materials to produce furniture, designs and internal insulation materials. The product itself is still in its research stage, but is undergoing a test run.
These are all great examples of how biotech offers solutions to global problems.
However, other examples target more purely social problems, such as Q’omer, a Spanish biotech which focuses on promoting public health by facilitating access to natural materials found in Latin America.
This is managed through a sustainable, socially responsible and environmentally friendly process, and thus promoting the local economy. They offer natural materials for different end use applications, such as for the food industry (functional food or beverages or dietary supplements) and for the cosmetics industry.
Let’s change the image many people have of biotechnology: biotech in addition to contributing to solve health problems can also solve global social and environmental problems.