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Despite the current absence of an overall national industrial biotechnology strategy, specific changes in Italian legislation have impacted the industrial biotechnology sector in the last years.
- The National Budget Law (2007) established that starting 2011, shopping bags distributed in the country had to be either biodegradable and compostable or reusable
- A National Environmental Law provided that starting 2012, carrier bags had to be certified biodegradable and compostable according to norm EN13432 and established related fines for non-compliance. The law also established the minimum thickness for reusable bags of 60, 100 and 200 micron according to categories. In addition, the use of most biobased additives to convert traditional plastics into biobased plastics was not possible anymore since the final biobased content had to be above a certain threshold (10% for 2G and 30% for 1G feedstocks).
- The “biofuels decree”. This national law provides quotas for biofuels in road transport from 2015 onwards with underlying 2nd generation biofuels targets starting 2018: 5% for land transportation fuel in 2015, 5.5% in 2016, 6.5% in 2017, 7,5% in 2018, of which at least 1,2% from advanced biofuels derived from non-food feedstocks, 9% in 2019 (above 1,2% advanced), 10% in 2020 e 2021 (above 1,6% advanced), and 10% (above 2% advanced) in 2022.
- The “biorefinery decree”. This piece of Italian legislation introduces simplification measures for authorisations related to the construction of new, 2nd generation biorefineries.
Who is there?
Of an overall number of 422 companies active in the biotech field in Italy, around 10% work in the white biotechnology field generating a turnover of 238 MEUR, of which 24MEUR are investments in R&D. For a comprehensive list of Italian companies in the field, please consult the BioInItaly Report 2014.
Assobiotec, the Italian Association for the development of biotechnology. Assobiotec is part of Federchimica (the Italian chemical industry association) and is the main organizer of IFIB, the Italian Forum on Industrial Biotechnology and the Bioeconomy which takes place once a year and gathers international industrial players, universities and research centres.
SPRING Cluster, founded by Italy’s “green chemistry champions” Biochemtex, Novamont and Versalis together with Federchimica. The cluster’s main objective is to create a national public-private partnership in the green chemistry and industrial biotechnology sector?
Other Industrial Biotechnology relevant Associations
- AIDIC – Associazione Italiana di Ingegneria Chimica
- ALBI – Associazione Lombarda Biotecnologie Industriali
- ANBI – Associazione Nazionale Biotecnologi Italiani
- ASCHIMFARMA – Associazione Nazionale Produttori di Materie Prime Farmaceutiche
- ASSOBIOTEC – Associazione Nazionale per lo Sviluppo delle Biotecnologie
- CIB – Consorzio InterUniversitario per le Biotecnologie
- CNBBSV – Comitato Nazionale per la Biosicurezza, le Biotecnologie e le Scienze per la Vita
- CPA – Chemical Pharmaceutical Generic Association
- FarmIndustria – Associazione delle imprese del farmaco
- FederChimica – Federazione Nazionale dell’Industria Chimica
- FISV – Federazione Italiana Scienze della Vita
- GNB – Gruppo Nazionale di Bioingegneria
- IBC – Italian Biocatalysis Center
Science Parks and Business incubators
- APSTI – Associazione Parchi Scientifici e Tecnologici Italiani
- PTP – Parco Tecnologico Padano
- BPSF – Bioindustry Park Silvano Fumero
Examples to watch
Bio-on is a promising Italian industrial biotechnology company which is currently moving beyond the start-up and SME stage. Bio-On owns a strong proprietary know-how on the production of PHAs (Polyhydroxyalkanoates), a special category of bioplastics. Bio-on’s ambition is to replace and improve PET, PE, PP, HDPE, LDPE using their line of products MINERV-PHA, MINERV® PHA bio-plastic, the first and only biopolymer in the world which is 100% biodegradable in water and fully biobased as they use byproducts from sugar refineries as a feedstock. Very recently, Bio-On has teamed up with Eridania Sadam to optimise the production of levulinic acid, a key building block used to generate sustainable chemicals.
Novamont and Eni/Versalis are currently setting up an integrated, 3rd generation biorefinery in Matrica, Sardinia. The plant is expected to be up and running in 2017 and will stretch out over an area of 27 hectares with input from various neighbouring which should amount to a total capacity of 350 000 tonnes of bioproducts per year. The bioprocess is based on the conversion of vegetable oils into mono and dicarboxylic acids and esters. The main applications include cosmetics, pharmaceutials, homecare, lubricants and bioplastics precursors.
Bioechmetex, Novozymes and TPG invested 150 MEUR set up the world’s first commercial scale second generation bioethanol plant in Crescentino, Italy, end of 2012. The plant has a production capacity of 40 kton/year of bioethanol (up to 60 kton/year), mostly destined to European markets. The plant covers an area of around 150,000 square meters, uses a maximum of 270 ktons of biomass per year, has an equivalent biomass storage capacity, and generates 13MW of electricity from lignin. The plant is actually self-sufficient in terms of energy and recycles up to 100% of the water it uses.
- The Lombardy region programme has a focus on several industrial sectors, including industrial biotechnology, and mainly offers facilitated debt financing
- The Italian Ministry of Economic Development controls a sustainable growth which supports industrial and experimental development research projects aiming at fostering resource-efficient growth, a greener and more competitive economy and KETs such as industrial biotechnology within H2020. The financial support consists in grants and facilitated debt financing. The expected budget ranges from 100 000 to 350 000 EUR
- Fondazione Caiplo has recently issued calls for proposals in the industrial biotechnology field and the bioeconomy. Eligible projects are deployed in the Lombardy region and Novara/Verbania
- The Emilia Romagna region programme features an Innovative StartUp program which supports various innovative companies, including in the white biotechnology field. The funding stream can contribute to up to 65% of eligible costs.
Other Italian regions are still due to publish their 2014-2020 planning – they will follow the categorisation of Horizon 2020 and may include funding streams for industrial biotechnology.
The MIUR, Ministero dell’Istruzione, dell’Università e della Ricerca, is the responsible entity for the Italian Application of the ERA-NET and JPI projects. The Programma Nazionale della Ricerca (national programme for research) for the 2014-2020 period is expected to be published in the coming months, probably including the category “European Bio-economy Challenges” and “Climate action, resource efficiency and raw materials”.
- Strong points: availability of highly skilled labour, excellent industrial and academic research, decades of experience in industrial biotechnology, including pioneering projects in the 1980s.
- Weak points: strong high added value agriculture limits access to low cost biomass, high energy costs, high taxation and uncertain support from public authorities
In 2013, Assobiotec has signed a memorandum of understanding with CLIB2021, the German Cluster for Industrial Biotechnology, in order to foster partnerships and business between German and Italian companies.
- Assobiotec – the Italian Association for Biotechnology
- Mario Bonaccorso, Marketing and External Relations (m.bonaccorso[at]federchemica.it)
Documents and links
Report of the BIO-TIC workshop in Italy – October 2013