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Joint European strategy for Industrial Biotechnology

Sixteen research organisations from twelve European countries have joined forces in the area of industrial biotechnology. The recent award made by the European Union to the network ERA Industrial Biotechnology (ERA-IB), is an essential contribution to improving Europe's competitive position. ERA-IB was launched in Brussels on 30 and 31 May 2006.

The cooperation must result in a harmonisation of the currently fragmented national research policies, the implementation of a joint strategy and coordination of new international research programmes in the area of industrial biotechnology. To achieve this the network will be supported by the European Technology Platform for Sustainable Chemistry (ETP-SusChem) and by the European Association for Bioindustries (EuropaBio).

With the national research programme B-Basic and the Kluyver Centre for Genomics of Industrial Fermentation, the Netherlands has a unique expertise in the area of research into industrial biotechnology. NWO is one of the founders of ERA-IB and is also the coordinator of the project. The Netherlands’ main task is to manage the entire network. In addition to this NWO will make an important contribution to the communication activities of the new European network.

Industrial biotechnology is the sustainable production of chemicals using biological raw materials. In the production processes microorganisms and enzymes are used as a catalyst, and agricultural products and the residue of these are used as renewable raw materials. Research into industrial biotechnology is essential in order to make the chemical industry a sustainable sector. Moreover, it is viewed as a key technology for obtaining the Lisbon objectives.

The European Union has awarded 3 million euros for network costs. This will be used to set up the necessary infrastructure and data management system within a period of five years. Further the network will devote attention to the societal aspects of a bio-based chemical industry. ERA-IB aims to develop a new transnational research programme by the end of the subsidy period. The funding for the research programme will, amongst others, come from the organisations involved and the European Union.

The network is a virtual office and the employees will not be located at the same physical location. The network will be coordinated from the NWO office in The Hague, which will also house the joint secretariat. The researchers who will eventually benefit from this network will be located throughout Europe.

Kim van den Wijngaard | alfa
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