“It boils down to more than only putting concrete and steel in the field. You also need qualified personnel, rigorous yet flexible operations next of course to customers that are willing to invest in changing their oil-based processes to bio-based processes.”
Bioprocess Pilot Facility (BPF) was established five years ago to develop what it calls novel, sustainable and environmentally friendly production processes using bio-based materials. Working alongside its shareholders, BPF also runs projects out of the subsidy programme sponsored by the EU, Horizon 2020, and also runs a range of projects – from small start-up companies and corporates, to demo projects. BPF is in the process of getting FSSC 22000 certification in place, an accreditation that will widen the offering give the company a more attractive proposition to its existing and prospective customers.
Eric Goossens, BPF director and general manager, is the subject of the latest 5 Minutes With… and he gives Dave Songer more details about his 26-year career that has been evenly split between the chemical industry and – where he finds himself now – biotechnology. This week, Eric gives his predictions for the growth of the bio-based industry, shares his advice on how to successfully launch a bio product and shares what he hopes could be the answer to the ocean plastic problem.
Dave Songer (DS): Hi Eric, can you first tell me what it is you most like about being involved in the bio-based industry?
Eric Goossens (EG): At the Bioprocess Pilot Facility that I work at in Delft, The Netherlands, is helping very different national and international customers in a world that needs to make the change to more and more bio-based processes that work without lowering our standard of living.
(DS): You’ve been general manager at BPF since April, what does your position there entail?
(EG): I’m accountable for the profit and loss at the company and I report to the supervisory board that consists of three shareholders. The company employs around 45 people and covers the functions of business development; operations; technology; quality, environment, safety and health (QESH); HR; and finance. We have a large customer base ranging from smaller start-up companies to bigger corporates, so it’s also a customer facing role.
In addition to running the organisation from a management perspective with my management team, I am also involved in business development as well as account management for one of our biggest customers. Furthermore, as statutory director, I report periodically to and have quarterly meetings with my supervisory board.
(DS): What has been your biggest professional challenge at BPF?
(EG): What I currently see as the biggest challenge within the piloting community – and not so much only at BPF – is the current link between apparently steeper increase in piloting capacity versus demand. Also known as the pork cycle, which describes the cyclical fluctuations of supply and prices in livestock markets, the situation could lead to overcapacity if its isn’t managed well enough within Europe, where new initiatives are being deployed across the continent with new pilot plants coming on-stream now and planned for the future. I have the feeling that the increase in capacity is going much faster than the growth of the market, and if we as society/Europe want to have a self-sustaining piloting capacity there should be a controlled growth on this capacity expansion.
Don’t forget that it boils down to more than only putting concrete and steel in the field. You also need qualified personnel, rigorous yet flexible operations next of course to customers that are willing to invest in changing their oil-based processes to bio-based processes. Given the fact that there is not a green premium to bio-based products we need to manage the growth without hampering innovation.
(DS): What advice would you give someone looking to get started in the bio-based industry?
(EG): Focus first on the robustness of your product, lab-scale process and use existing pilot plant facilities. The latter will de-risk your process and product development since you don’t need to invest in your own pilot plant facilities. With respect to making the processes at lab scale already more robust for piloting, BPF can also assist. But it starts first with a thorough understanding of the robustness of the own process by the client itself. Furthermore, keep working on a solid business case for being successful in the next steps. It doesn’t stop after lab/pilot experiments. BPF helps to design a technical-commercial feasible process for commercial production.
(DS): What are BPF’s key priorities for 2018; can you provide any details?
(EG): To further expand on our pre-treatment and hydrolysis capabilities to enable our customers to work on valorisation of residual and by-product streams. We have already built a strong backbone in knowledge and experience in this field and want to expand further on this.
Grow in-demo operations: showing integrated processing at BPF, either in food and/or non-food projects and processes. With this we support our customers to design and prove a robust demo process, without them needing to invest significantly in (temporary) equipment themselves. Also, in this case it de-risks the development executed by the customer and enables robust data collection that supports sound decision making on a commercial plant. Get FSSC 22000 certification to support potential food ingredient customers also in entering or pursuing their ambition in the bio-based and circular economy.
(DS): On your profile page you say you’re dedicated to supporting your clients with the circular economy. Can you give me some examples of how you do that?
(EG): My hands are tied somewhat owing to our intellectual property policy so I can’t go into detail, but we do support a variety of customers across the globe working in food and non-food. As BPF, we are actively expanding our capacity in the value chain of conversion of biomass feedstocks to purified end-products. Because we feel that this is an area that a lot of customers are in need of to enter the bio-based and circular economies.
At the higher added value we are targeting FSSC 22000 Food Safety System Certification, to be able to attract food producing customers that want to enter the world of bio-based processes to come to BPF. Biotechnology already has a long history. Increasing complexity and aggressive time to market challenges makes the relevance of piloting/scaling-up knowledge of higher importance for today’s biochemical engineering. BPF brings extensive experience in translation of industrial scale processing to the right set of piloting conditions.
(DS): Where would you like to see BPF in ten years’ time?
(EG): We’d like to be seen as the key player in supporting our customers to make sound investment decisions for future commercial biotechnology plants. We will do that by ensuring key expertise in scaling-up biotechnology processes linked with demo-piloting (integrated processes), with a focus on biomass conversion.
(DS): What is your favourite bio-based product and why?
(EG): Monomers for polymerisation. If you see how much plastic, non-degradable waste to the oceans than this is one of our key priorities as society. Reports predict that, on the current track, oceans will contain more plastic than fish (by weight) by 2050. This is what mankind is doing.
If I’m allowed to have a second favourite, I would say food ingredients to make optimal use of our natural resources, not being oil, for feeding the global population (up to 10 billion in 2055).
(DS): Some fascinating insights there, Eric, thanks very much. Bio-Based World News wishes BPF all the best for the future.
Read the last 5 minutes with… Craig Windram, CEO of Abengoa North America.
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