4 Minutes With…Steve Hartig, General Manager Licensing, POET DSM Advanced Biofuels

September 24, 2014 |

hartigRecently, if you had attended at the opening of the POET-DSM project in Emmetsburg, you would have seen Steve Hartig at the back of the pack on the plant tours — one of the go-to guys, answering all the detailed questions, deflecting the sensitive ones, getting the vision across not only for this demonstration facility, but the future. It’s typical Steve — rarely in the limelight, but always in the know.

One thing you might not know about him, but pretty interesting considering the beehive of activity around cellulosic biofuels projects — he keeps bees as a hobby. Now, that’s one way to get those low-cost sugars.

Tell us about your organization and it’s role in the Advanced Bioeconomy.

We are focused on taking the strengths of POET in ethanol and DSM in biotechnology and focusing them on making cellulosic ethanol from corn crop residue a commercial reality. We have started up our commercial demonstration plant in Emmetsburg, Iowa and are now working with partners to license and expand this technology.

Tell us about your role and what you are focused on in the next 12 months.

Starting up the demonstration plant is step one for us and now we are working to optimize the plant and drive the costs downward. I am personally working with companies that we would license the technology. However, licensing is a very easy word–we are working hand in hand with them to prove the technology and business case. The US has been our starting market but we certainly see opportunities in Brazil, China and Europe and other countries.

What do you feel are the most important milestones the industry must achieve in the next 5 years?

–For ethanol, work our way through the US blendwall and prove commercial viability for cellulosic ethanol
–For biomaterials and chemicals, determine the technically and commercially viable approaches and make it more standard business

If you could snap your fingers and change one thing about the Advanced Bioeconomy, what would you change?

I would fix the dysfunctional public policy and regulatory discussions going on around the RFS. We all spend so much time on it that could better be spent on moving forward productively.

Of all the reasons that influenced you to join the Advanced Bioeconomy industry, what single reason stands out for you as still being compelling and important to you?

I think this field is a fascinating area that combines agriculture, chemistry and biotechnology that is important to our and our children future.

Where are you from? 

I was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan and group up all across the Midwest. As an adult I have continued to move spending about ten years in Europe and presently living in the Chicago area.

What was your undergraduate major in college, and where did you attend? Why did you choose that school and that pathway? 

I studied Chemical Engineering at the University of Michigan. The pathway came up as I liked chemistry but as a person I am more an engineer than a scientist. My parents and grandfather all went to Michigan and I grew up wanting to go there.

Who do you consider your mentors?

I have had a broad group of mentors inside DSM and outside each of them helping me with different things at different stages in my career. I think some of my key learnings have been:
–Look outside and put yourself in the shoes of your customer, partner, competitor etc. Learn to think how they do
–Make sure you have clear direction and that the organization buys into it both logically and emotionally

What’s the biggest lesson you ever learned during a period of adversity?

Make sure you over communicate into the organization. Fear is the worst emotion to have.

What hobbies do you pursue, away from your work in the industry? 

Skiing, Biking, Hiking, Keeping bees, Photography

What are 3 books you’d want to have with you, if you were stranded on a desert island?

I think the key would be to have something that would take your mind off the fact that you are stuck on an island while at the same time being something you can read over and over. The first thing that comes to mind is the Lord of the Rings books which I have not read since college.

What books or articles are on your reading list right now, or you just completed and really enjoyed?

I am reading now Bully Pulpit by Doris Kearns Goodwin which is about Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft which is a time in history I really do not know that much about.

What’s your favorite city or place to visit, for a holiday?

Skiing in the rockies and hiking in the Italian Dolomites

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Category: Million Minds

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