TOULOUSE WHITE BIOTECHNOLOGY (TWB) is a pre-industrial demonstrator that designs and creates biological tools (enzymes, microorganisms, microbial consortia, etc.), thus opening new avenues for the production of chemical molecules (synthons), biopolymers, biomaterials and biofuels based on the use of renewable carbon.
To promote white biotechnology
White, or industrial, biotechnology is the application of biotransformation and fermentation for manufacturing chemicals, materials, energy (biofuels) on an industrial scale through use of biomass as a renewable raw material. The challenge lies in developing an innovative bio-economy that makes use of renewable carbon without competing with food requirements.
A catalyst for scientific innovation
TWB promotes scientific and technological innovation by funding pre-competitive projects carried out in the very early stages of development that are potential sources of intellectual property. By adopting a project-based approach to research, TWB encourages collaboration between research teams that are specialists in their field of expertise, thus increasing the capacity for scientific innovation.
Stronger links between research and industry
The TWB consortium, which comprises 20 industrial partners and 9 public institutions, is organized in such a way as to simplify contractual arrangements, to encourage exchange between research and industry. Technology transfer is therefore speedier. Meetings between academic researchers and industrial partners are organized regularly to make joint projects more accessible.
The idea behind the Toulouse White Biotechnology demonstrator was born in 2010, initiated by Pierre Monsan (Professor at INSA Toulouse and MINES ParisTech) and as a result of support from local, academic and industrial players. All were driven by the desire to create a centre of white biotechnology excellence of international renown. Winner of the Investissements d’Avenir call for proposals in the field of health and biotechnology pre-industrial demonstrators in March 2011, the TWB project has received funding from the ANR to the tune of €20 million. Initiated in October 2011, the project attracted some thirty partners from the outset, who subsequently grouped together to form a spearhead public-private consortium. TWB draws on its synergistic collaboration with the Biosystems and Process Engineering Laboratory (LISBP) of the National Institute for Applied Sciences (INSA) in Toulouse (INRA Joint Research Unit 792, CNRS Joint Research Unit 5504). This laboratory, rated A+ by AERES and boasting a staff of 330 people, has over 40 years’ experience in the areas of biochemical engineering and processes. It is internationally acknowledged for its expertise in the fields of biocatalysis, microbial physiology, microbiological engineering and environmental processes.
The TWB Joint Service Unit
The TWB pre-industrial demonstrator is a Joint Service Unit (INRA Joint Service Unit 1337, CNRS Joint Service Unit 3582). It is an administrative body supported by INRA that was created following the signing of an association agreement between INRA, INSA and CNRS. TWB is also a 3BCAR Carnot Institute certified laboratory.
TWB is a pre-industrial demonstrator that opens new avenues for sustainable production, privileging the emergence of an economy making use of renewable carbon. Considered a “future centre of excellence in the field of industrial, or white, biotechnology”, TWB is structured around a Joint Service Unit (UMS) under the triple tutelage of INRA, INSA and CNRS (INRA UMS 1337, CNRS UMS 3582).
TWB has three missions
- To promote industrial (white) biotechnology and promote the emergence of the bio-economy
- To act as a catalyst for scientific innovation
- To reinforce the links between basic research, applied research and industrialization
TWB embraces an original concept
TWB combines a creative approach and an ethical and sustainable development strategy for projects carried out in the fields of research and industrial pre-development.
In addition, TWB pools its expertise, acquired from the Biosystems and Process Engineering Laboratory (LISBP) of the National Institute for Applied Sciences (INSA) in Toulouse, to create multi-scale leading-edge technologies (from genes, to products, to processes).
TWB also proposes a pioneering work organization, based on the proactive involvement of public and private partners sharing common socio-economic objectives and working together to guide and speed up TWB projects. The consortium agreement by which they are bound simplifies contract negotiations, making it possible to set up collaborative projects rapidly.
- From research to the pre-industrial pilot
Being able to continue the research phase through to pre-industrial pilot testing at the same site is crucial for effective product development and for reducing risks associated with changes in scale. Taking industrial constraints into consideration at project start-up reduces the risk of scale-up failure.
- Faster process development
Speed of development is a determining factor in a company’s competitiveness. By fostering project-based collaboration, it is possible to approach team members directly for more rapid research programme development, and to make adjustments as needed on the basis of regular steering committee meetings.
- Specialists in molecular and cell engineering
The demonstrator works in partnership with the best specialists in not only molecular and cell engineering but also process engineering, and takes scaling requirements on board during industrial production.
- Integration of ethics and sustainable development
The projects implemented by TWB benefit from ethical considerations, to assess future social acceptance. Life cycles are also analyzed from a sustainable development perspective.