Covestro and Genomatica launch partnership for high-performance plant-based materials

March 31, 2019 |

Genomatica, the bioengineering pioneer that helps major brands like H&M and Lavazza produce sustainable mainstream products, announced a significant new partnership recently with Covestro, a mainstream chemical and materials leader, to work together on high-performance materials from plants.

Materials manufacturer Covestro and biotechnology company Genomatica joined forces to research and develop high-performance materials based on renewable feedstocks. With their collaboration, both partners are aiming to reduce the use of fossil-based resources such as crude oil. “These are today still the most common carbon and raw material sources of the chemical and plastics industries,” according to their press release. “Using carbon from plants instead would help reduce CO2 emissions and close the carbon loop in another move towards a circular economy.”

“This long-term partnership involves teams from both companies working together to drive commercially-focused innovations. Genomatica will deploy its strengths in developing industrial-scale bioprocesses to produce widely-used chemicals. Covestro complements the collaboration with strong know-how in chemical process technology and application development. This initiative is another example of Covestro’s approach to drive innovation by sustainability.”

Reducing dependence on fossil raw materials

“The market is showing increasing interest in products based on renewable raw materials,” said Dr. Klaus Schäfer, Chief Technology Officer of Covestro. “Being able to increasingly derive key materials from biomass is essential for making our industry less dependent on fossil raw materials and market fluctuations. With this, we are pursuing our vision of making the world a brighter place.”

Christophe Schilling, CEO of US-based Genomatica, said, “We look forward to supporting Covestro in its efforts and providing our expertise in harnessing the power of biotechnology to bring much-needed change to many segments of the chemical industry.”

Bringing bio to the bulk

Genomatica has earned widespread acclaim for its technology; has commercialized processes to make the chemical butanediol (for biodegradable plastics and apparel) and for butylene glycol (cosmetics and personal care); and is working on bio-nylon. To date, Genomatica has helped reshape how plastic, nylon, and cosmetics are made using sustainable feedstocks (corn, sugar cane, etc) instead of petroleum-based materials.

We recently covered the big news about Genomatica’s butylene glycol, and the 21 trucks that rolled out from a (Novamont) contracted manufacturing site with 600 tons of the stuff back in February. You can read more about BG, the shipments, the value and opportunities, and more, as reported in The Digest here.

As reported in The Digest in October 2018, we talked about the magic, bioengineering, Genomatica’s biobased process technologies, and their latest $90 million equity offering. the The company raised an additional $90 million to accelerate commercialization of product lines and deepen its partnership with Ginkgo Bioworks. Genomatica’s latest magical maneuver with the $90M was expected to help strengthen its balance sheet to fully execute on its business plan and fuel new growth opportunities.

CEO Christophe Schilling gave this illuminating overview of the company’s promise and progress at ABLC 2018 in Washington DC. Check out The Digest’s Multi-Slide-Guide here.

Why Covestro?

It’s pretty easy to see why Genomatica would want to partner with Covestro. With sales of EUR 14.6 billion in 2018, Covestro is among the world’s largest polymer companies (which makes sense given that prior to 2015 they were the Bayer MaterialsScience group, part of Bayer Group’s chemicals and plastics unit). They have 30 production sites worldwide and employs approximately 16,800 people as of the end of 2018.

You know the saying, size doesn’t matter, so just because they are huge, doesn’t mean they’d make a good partner.

But their wide-ranging applications in many areas of daily life sure makes a difference. Their business activities are focused on the manufacture of high-tech polymer materials and the development of innovative solutions for products used in many areas but mainly in automotive, construction, wood processing and furniture, and electrical and electronics industries. Other sectors include sports and leisure, cosmetics, health and the chemical industry itself. Covestro has it covered as far as consumer, real-world applications. And that makes it a very attractive and appealing partner.

As reported in The Digest in October 2018, Covestro announced a huge expansion to strengthen its position in MDI globally by building a new world-scale MDI plant in Baytown, Texas. The EUR 1.5 billion (about $1.7 billion) investment in the new MDI plant is the largest single investment in the history of the company.

Covestro has continued with a flurry of announcements over the last few months from building a new manufacturing line for polycarbonate films in Thailand to increase their global capacity for film and biofilm production, to presenting its new Baycusan eco series of biobased polyurethane film formers for the cosmetics industry, including a hair gel based on their new biobased film former (INCI designation: Polyurethane-93).

Bottom Line

The partnership between Genomatica and Covestro is a major step forward for a lot of things. It’s a move forward to reduce dependency on petroleum-based materials, a move towards the production of more sustainable everyday products, and a move towards more collaboration to get things done in the bioeconomy.

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