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Dernière mise à jour : Mai 2018

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What is Biotechnology and How Can it Deliver Sustainable Processes, Products, and Services?

Biotechnology uses living organisms and their components (e.g. enzymes and nucleic acids) to convert raw material into products and related services. Advantageously, living organisms are exquisitely adapted for the conversion of biobased resources, and their catalytic functions are both extensive and amenable to bioengineering. Consequently, biotechnology is identified as a key enabling technology for the circular bioeconomy, because it empowers the development of (i) alternative, cost-effective manufacturing processes to produce existing products, (ii) access routes to myriads of novel products and services (e.g. biogas production and recycled fossil-based materials) and (iii) cleaner manufacturing solutions, compliant with increasingly stringent environmental regulation and changing societal values. In this respect, biotechnology is ideally positioned to contribute to the circular bioeconomy transition and fulfil the ambitions of Europe’s Green Deal and many UN Sustainable Development Goals. For these reasons, Europe has put forward biotechnology as a central pillar of innovation and identified it as an advanced technology for industry. Indeed, it is expected that biotechnology's role in the circular bioeconomy will be analogous to that of chemistry in the petroeconomy.

As Nature’s catalysts, enzymes are fundamental to biotechnology. These extraordinary biocatalysts support the functioning of all living systems and display amazing aptitude to catalyse an astonishingly large number of chemical reactions. In living organisms, enzymes usually work together in an ordered fashion to perform complex cascade reactions that characterise metabolic processes. These processes provide the basis for the synthesis of an almost infinite array of organic compounds that are suitable for a wide variety of market products, including biofuels, bulk and fine chemicals, ingredients for food and feed, cosmetics, medicines, and pharmaceuticals, among others. Moreover, enzymes and living organisms can be harnessed to provide services such as wastewater treatment, CO2  capture, environmental remediation, crop protection etc. Exploiting individual enzymes and the power of living organisms to provide such products and services is the business of biotechnology (Figure 1).
Diagrams and Pictograms

Figure 1. IBISBA services are relevant to a wide array of market sectors covered by biotechnology.