4 minutes with… Gert-Jan (G-J) Gruter, CTO, Avantium

July 28, 2015 |

imgresTell us about your company and it’s role in the Advanced Bioeconomy.

Avantium developed a novel process for the production of PEF (brandname YXY), a 100% biobased polyester with enhanced barrier, thermal and mechanical properties. Together with Coca-Cola, Danone and ALPLA we target PEF bottles. The process has been proven at pilot plant scale and we are ady for scale-up. PEF has also huge fiber and film potential.

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

Gert-Jan (1963) has a background in Polymer Chemistry (DSM 1993-2000) and has been Professor of Polymer Catalysis at Eindhoven University of Technology.

In 2000 he transferred to Avantium and in 2004 he was appointed as CTO with as one of his responsiblities initiate Avantium’s own product and process development. This resulted in the YXY technology which includes novel processes to convert carbohydrates to furan-based building blocks such as FuranDiCarboxylic Acid (FDCA ) and subsequent 100% bio-based polyesters such as PEF. The application of PEF in bottles, fibers and film has seen most interest.

Gert-Jan is also leading a team to develop a process for the conversion of lignocellulosic biomass to glucose (2nd generation sugars) and on direct selective hydrogenolysis of carbohydrates to ethylene glycol.

Gert-Jan is inventor on more than 100 patent applications and he was elected “European CTO of the year 2014”.

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

– high quality and economic lignocellulosic sugars

reduce CO2 emissions

– solar fuels

– Make steps in transition to a circular economy (find alternatives for many elements that we are rapidly depleting (Ag, Sb, In, Pt, P, ….)

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

Agree on a rational, fact-based approach and eliminate the emotion and politics from discussions around land-use, food-fuel, GMO etc. We are far too critical (and create unnecessary hurdles) wrt technology development in the Advanced Bioeconomy. We are not questioning the origin of fossil products in this way !!

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?  

The Earth’s natural resources are currently being consumed at an increasing and totally unsustainable level. As a result, within a generation, oil and many precious metals will be scare and far more expensive. Humanity is exceeding the carrying capacity of the Earth. Our ecological footprint is way beyond what the Earth can sustain.

Where are you from? 

Amsterdam, the Netherlands

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Category: Million Minds

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