The US Bioeconomy Blueprint: the 10 Minute Guide

April 27, 2012 |

The Obama Administration releases its long-awaited, historic strategic plan for the bioeconomy, and US economic revival from advances in health sciences, agriculture, industrial biotechnology and advanced biofuels.

No time to read the dense pages of the full report? Try our 10-Minute Guide, including links to the full report and a bonus look at the EU’s bioeconomy strategy.

In Washington, the Obama Administration released its Bioeconomy Blueprint, outlining its strategy for US economic revival based on a US technological lead in agriculture, biotechnology, health sciences and entrepreneurism.

In today’s Digest, we present a 10-Minute Guiide to the Blueprint, as well as a free download of the complete 48-page document – and, as a bonus, a free download of “Innovating for Sustainable Growth: A Bioeconomy for Europe,” which was prepared in Brusssels by the European Commission in a strategic plan submitted to the European Parliament.

The rationale

In the blueprint’s opening pages, the Administration writes: “Decades of life-sciences research and the development of increasingly powerful tools for obtaining and using biological data have brought us closer to the threshold of a previously unimaginable future: “ready to burn” liquid fuels produced directly from CO2, biodegradable plastics made not from oil but from renewable biomass, tailored food products to meet specialized dietary requirements, personalized medical treatments based on a patient’s own genomic information, and novel biosensors for real-time monitoring of the environment.

“Increasingly, scientists and engineers are looking to augment biological research with approaches from other scientific disciplines for solutions to our most demanding scientific and societal challenges and seeing exciting options that will profoundly affect our future.”

The massize size of the bioeconomy, even today

In the Blueprint, the Administration reports: “According to the USDA, U.S.revenues in 2010 from genetically modified crops were approximately $76 billion. Beyond agriculture, based on the best available estimate, 2010 U.S.revenues from industrial biotechnology—fuels, materials, chemicals, and industrial enzymes derived from genetically modified systems—were approximately $100 billion.” The Blueprint also notes the international success of US agriculture, which produced a $42 billion trade surplus last year.

Five Strategic Objectives: from the Bioeconomy Blueprint

The National Bioeconomy Blueprint describes five strategic objectives for a bioeconomy with the potential to generate economic growth and address societal needs.

1. Support R&D investments that will provide the foundation for the future U.S. bioeconomy.

“Coordination of Federal bioeconomy-related research activities can improve the efficiency and effectiveness of those investments and is especially important when budget growth is constrained. Coordinated strategic programs and targeted investments will accelerate progress in biological research and technology areas, and this in turn will drive discovery for an American bioeconomy.”

Moving Forward: Coordinated, integrated R&D efforts will help strategically shape the national bioeconomy R&D agenda.

2. Facilitate the transition of bioinventions from research lab to market, including an increased focus on translational and regulatory sciences.

“If it is to be successful and thrive, the bioeconomy will be based on a steady flow of new products and services that address American needs. To ensure this flow, policies must be developed and taxpayer dollars must be used responsibly to foster an ecosystem that supports discovery, innovation, and commercialization.”

Moving Forward: A dedicated commitment to translational efforts will accelerate movement of bioinventions out of laboratories and into markets.

3. Develop and reform regulations to reduce barriers, increase the speed and predictability of regulatory processes, and reduce costs while protecting human and environmental health.

“Regulations are essential for protecting human health and the environment and reducing safety and security risks associated with potential misapplications of technology. When they are not carefully crafted or become outdated, however, they can become barriers to innovation and market expansion and discourage investment.”

Moving forward: Improved regulatory processes will help rapidly and safely achieve the promise of the future bioeconomy.

4. Update training programs and align academic institution incentives with student training for national workforce needs.

“Many jobs in science and technology-related businesses remain unfilled despite high rates of local unemployment. Opportunities exist to enhance training efforts at all levels to keep pace with changing career pathways.”

Moving forward: Federal agencies should take steps to ensure that the future bioeconomy has a sustainable and appropriately-trained workforce.

5. Identify and support opportunities for the development of public-private partnerships and precompetitive collaborations—where competitors pool resources, knowledge, and expertise to learn from successes and failures.

“Partnerships enable private industry, government agencies, and academic institutions to pool resources and expertise around an idea, dramatically improving chances for success. Many companies do not invest in early ideas because they are unlikely to pay off immediately.This is one place where the government can play a crucial role.”

Moving forward: Federal agencies should provide incentives for public-private partnerships and precompetitive collaborations to benefit the bioeconomy broadly.

Specifics in the blueprint relating to biofuels and industrial biotechnology

I.    Strengthening Research and Development

Increasing Availability of Renewable Fuels, Intermediate Chemicals, and Biobased Products
Expanding the Versatility of Biofuel Energy Solutions
Improving of Biofuel and Bioenergy Crops
Key provision:  Funding for biomass research at USDA, DOE and ARPA-E

Transforming Manufacturing through Bioinnovation
Employing Biomanufacturing to Enhance Economic Growth
Key provision: Funding for biomanufacturing R&D via DARPA and NSF
Unlocking the Promise of Synthetic Biology
Key provision: Funding for synthetic biology research at DOE Office of Science

II.    Advancing From Lab to the Market

Catalyzing Advanced Biofuels Production through Consortia
Key provision: DOE advanced biofuels consortia

Advancing Biofuels for Military and Commercial Transportation
Key provision: Navy – DOD – DOE MOU

Driving Innovation and Creating Jobs in Rural America through Biobased and Sustainable Product Procurement
Key provision: Strengthening Biobased Markets Program via Presidential MOU

IV.    Developing a Bioeconomy Workforce

Expanding and Enhancing the Biomanufacturing Workforce
Key provision: SUSCHEM workforce training program

V.    Fostering Partnerships

Developing Innovative Approaches to New Biofuels Feedstock
Key provision: USDA/DOE Feedstock public-private partnerships

Increasing Bioeconomy Agricultural Exports
Key provision: USDA Market Access Program

Industry reaction

Novozymes, applauded President Obama’s National Bioeconomy Blueprint and his continued commitment toward renewable energy and a more sustainable economy, a strategy he began outlining in his 2012 State of the Union address.

“This plan is already at work building a national bioeconomy workforce. Replacing chemistry with biology – fossil fuels with biofuels – puts steel in the ground, creates jobs and powers our economy,” Adam Monroe, President of Novozymes North America, said. “We look forward to continuing our work with President Obama and ensuring America has policies in place, like the Renewable Fuels Standard, to meet that goal.”

Monroe added, “The private sector needs a stable policy environment.  The Bioeconomy Blueprint, along with continued  robust research and development funding, a strong, fully-funded Farm Bill energy title, and the Renewable Fuel Standard provide that stability. Novozymes believes private industry plays a critical role in the success of America’s economy. However, we also believe a strong partnership is vital to the success of any emerging industry, where the private sector provides the innovation and lion’s share of capital to develop it – and the public sector provides consistent policy support to grow it.”

Further reading

Download the Bioeconomy Blueprint, here.

Download the EU’s “Innovating for Sustainable Growth: A Bioeconomy for Europe,” here.

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