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5 Minutes With… Virginia Klausmeier, president and CEO of Sylvatex.

Posted on Feb 23, 2018 1:00:00 PM

Virginia Klausmeier, president and CEO of Sylvatex. [Credit: TED Talks]Based in the Bay Area, California, Sylvatex is dedicated to upcycling low-value plant-based inputs into high-value alternatives to petrochemical products. Sylvatex’s products can be used in a wide variety of applications, from powering vehicles to making fragrances – all part of the company’s mission to increase the use of renewables globally and to empower a cleaner and healthier future.

The Sylvatex president and CEO, Virginia Klausmeier, joins Bio-Based World News’ Dave Songer for 5 Minutes With… this week, ahead of her talk at World Bio Markets. In a wide ranging interview, Sylvia reflects the positivity in the industry, covering Sylvatex’s recent collaborations, the biggest challenges she and the company have faced and which eco product keeps her warm in Frisco Bay.

Dave Songer (DS): For those unfamiliar with what Sylvatex, can you tell me about some of the company’s products?

Virginia Klausmeier (VK): Our MicroX product platform uses nano-scale particles to manipulate chemicals, fabricate materials, produce energy and enhance our environment. The patented platform and growing technical database provide safer, lower cost, and higher performing solutions for multiple billion-dollar markets – from next-generation battery materials, to fragrances and fuels – all while significantly reducing toxic waste and carbon emissions.

We currently have collaborations with USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and a number of industry partnerships to expedite our time to market while maintaining our technical expertise in plant-based nano-chemistry.


(DS): You have a very varied career in the bio-based industry, what do you most enjoy about working in it?
(VK): The bio-based industry is fairly diverse, in that you usually have to work and have knowledge up and down the value chain – from the crop innovations to the production logistics, ever change economics, engineering and then end-product applications. I love connecting dots to figure out how to create value within the system. I’m a firm believer that there’s a lot of value creation still on the table and with collaborations, throughout the supply chain, there are many developments to be made to capture that value.
(DS): And what has been the biggest industry change(s) since you began?

One of the biggest industry changes has been the pivot (or platform expansion) of renewable companies and product development due to the decreased price of crude oil. The current economic environment has forced companies to either abandon renewable fuels applications for their technologies or to innovate their products to other, higher-value, product applications.

Sylvatex’s green nano-chemistry technology is well positioned to thrive within this economic environment, such as the low price of oil, both with the fuel enhancer application and as a process solution for industries such as energy storage, flavours and fragrances, and agrochemicals, to name just a few. Although it has been a little painful to navigate in the long run it is very healthy for innovation to come out of the floor of price points and drives pressure to create low cost - higher value solutions, which is exactly what we have done.

(DS): What is the biggest professional challenge you’ve faced?

(VK): Trying to do it all with such little resources; we’ve done a great job expanding our technology platform, developing key commercial partnerships and other foundational collaborations on a shoestring budget. It’s really quite remarkable what the Sylvatex team has accomplished, but it definitely wasn’t easy.

(DS): What advice would you give someone looking to get started in the bio-based industry?

(VK): Have your supply chain in place to make sure you can compete on a cost basis. Also, make sure your technology has superior properties and isn’t just a replacement of existing petroleum-derived products.

(DS): Announced this month, @SylvatexInc entered into a joint development agreement (JDA) with Valicor – what more can you tell me about that?

(VK): The JDA will oversee the development, construction, and commercialization of Sylvatex’s MicroX technology, converting distillers’ corn oil and other plant-based oil feedstocks into Sylvatex’s proprietary MicroX renewable blendstock. The JDA will also accelerate commercial-scale engineering and expedite early market sales of the MicroX blendstock.

Sylvatex and Valicor share the commitment to waste resource recovery and upcycling of biomaterials to create valuable solutions for industry. This partnership will benefit both the environment and stakeholders by repurposing materials, maximising green chemistry processing (allowing for substantially lower production costs), and significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“This agreement marks the commencement of a long-term partnership with Valicor, a leader in conversion technologies. Sylvatex and Valicor have enjoyed a strong collaborative relationship, advancing innovations. We look forward to expanding our partnership to create value and better utilise existing assets.”

(DS): You’re based in the US; can the US learn from how Europe approaches the bio-industry? And vice versa?

(VK): Europe seems to be much further ahead of the curve on understanding the direct and indirect value of the bio-based/green chemistry industry. Not only are many of the key industry partners in Europe, but there are growing government programmes and other drivers that are fostering the industry. The US has a lot to learn from Europe on these fronts.

The US has done a good job of developing the life cycle analysis for different pathways of feedstock and processes to allow for data-driven innovation and incentive programmes. From what I’ve seen the Low Carbon Fuel Standard run by part of California Air Resources Board (@AirResources) is one of the most sophisticated programmes to help better understand great opportunities and there is a lot to learn from this across industries and continents.

(DS): You’re due to speak at World Bio Markets in Amsterdam – what are you most looking forward to at the show?

World Bio Markets 2018 (VK): Connecting with potential industry partners and reconnecting with old friends in the industry. We’re all in a much different position then we have been in the past with our commercial efforts and I really look forward to developing great collaborative opportunities with them.

(DS): What is your favourite bio-based product and why?

(VK): The Patagonia (@patagonia) Nano Puff Jacket which uses 55% postconsumer recycled content and is wrapped in a 100% recycled polyester shell. It’s worn as a layer of skin in San Francisco!

(DS): Thanks so much, Virginia. I look forward to catching up with you in Amsterdam next month.

Read the last 5 minutes with… Christophe Schilling, CEO of Genomatica.

If you would like to feature in the feature that every week puts a face to the brand and provides established businesses and start-ups the crucial advice they need in this industry, please email

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Dave Songer