With an annual growth of 6%, bio-chemistry is booming. What is the place of innovation in this growth?
François Monnet – A whole ecosystem of organizations and devices combining public and private investment accompanies researchers and entrepreneurs who develop new solutions. These actors are supported by energy transition institutes such as the ITE PIVERT in the Grand Est , incubators like the Biopôle Clermont-Limagne or demonstrators like Toulouse White biotechnology.
Competitiveness clusters such as Axelera, in the stronghold of the chemical industry that is the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, Industries and Agro-Resources (IAR) in the Hauts-de-France and Grand Est regions, or Xylofutur in New Aquitaine , play an equally vital role in supporting innovation.
How can this very strong territorial commitment to the sector be explained?
FM – Plant chemistry generates 10 billion euros in sales in France! It therefore provides economic support and a welcome growth relay for the territories, particularly rural areas. It diversifies income sources, encourages industrial renewal and already represents 100,000 direct and indirect jobs, often not relocatable and with high added value. Nearly 200 laboratories, biorefineries or processing plants are fairly evenly distributed throughout the country, although the sector retains certain strongholds such as Lyon, the historic cradle of chemistry in France.
It was precisely in Lyon that the 5th Plant Based Summit was held in May. This European Congress of Plant Chemistry identifies major trends in innovation and development. What are they and can you give us concrete examples of applications?
FM – The two main lines of innovation are based on the creation of new products based on materials derived from plant raw materials and innovative processes to reduce their carbon footprint. Packaging, cosmetics, building materials … Bio-based products are already a reality in a number of sectors. For example, guar, a sugar polymer, is used by Solvay to design shampoos. For its part, Arkema relies on polyamide 11 from castor oil to compete with engineering plastics in the automotive industry. Another example: the Algo start-up uses algae residues to create paintings.
France is the European agricultural leader but remains behind Germany in the biosourced products and materials sector. What explains this delay?
FM – France has 29 million hectares of useful agricultural area and a very large forest area. Germany and Italy together have a floor space barely larger and yet Germany weighs 18% of the European bioeconomy, France 14% and Italy 13%. This shows that the country can enhance its natural assets. Similarly, if the state invests in innovation , other neighboring countries have written their bioeconomy strategy earlier, such as Germany 7 years ago.
Published on letsgofrance.fr