South Korean energy conglomerate Daesung Group hosted its third annual forum on microbes Thursday in Seoul, with the theme “Lab to Industry for Bioeconomy.”
Attended by around 150 participants, the 2019 Daesung Haegang Microbes Forum offered a venue for academia and the private sector to discuss the latest trends in clean energy and environment technologies using microorganisms, as well as to seek ways to bring them into the market.
The highlight of the forum was the utilization and market expansion of white biotechnology, which is emerging as an alternative in the energy and petrochemical sectors. That refers to the technology that produces chemical products or biofuels using renewable plant resources, such as corn, beans, sugarcane and wood.
Kim Young-hoon, chairman of Daesung Group, gives the opening speech at the 2019 Daesung Haegang Microbes Forum in Seoul on Thursday. (Daesung Group)
The global white bio market is expected to grow by an annual average of 8.9 percent to reach 557 trillion won ($477 billion) in 2025 from 280 trillion won in 2017, according to industry data.
“In an era for an energy paradigm shift, diverse white biotechnologies, which can markedly reduce carbon emission and the reliance on fossil fuels, are expected to grow rapidly and move from the laboratory to the commercial market,” said Kim Young-hoon, chairman of Daesung Group and chair of the World Energy Council, in an opening speech at the forum.
“For microorganism technologies, which can overcome the limits of renewable energy, to be commercialized, support and cooperation from the private and public sectors are necessary,” he said.
During the forum, one of the key speakers was Derek R. Lovley, a professor at the department of microbiology at the University of Massachusetts. He presented on the discovery and improvement of microorganisms capable of producing diverse materials using carbon dioxide and electricity. He also shared the world’s first development of technologies to generate electricity using microorganisms.
Kristala L. Jones Prather, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, shared her knowledge on original technologies of producing oil-based, high-valued chemical materials using the metabolic engineering of microorganisms. She also talked about the technology development of microbes that provide various chemical substances.
At the forum, Joerg Fischer -- chief financial officer of Envitec Biogas, a German company specializing in white biotechnology --presented the firm’s business model that produces electricity using biomethane. It currently operates around 500 biogas plants worldwide.
Two Korean young scientists talked about their research as well. Lee Jeong-wook, a professor at Pohang University of Science and Technology, presented genetic devices that control the life and death of living organisms. Cho Won-ki, a professor at Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology shed light on the cell using super-resolution microscopy.
Founded in 1947 by Kim Soo-keun, Daesung Group is an energy conglomerate providing solutions in the fields of city gas supply, renewable energy, waste-to-energy and other sectors.
The firm has hosted the forum on microbes since 2017, believing that biotechnologies are the key to future energy and environment industry. The first forum focused on the development potential of new energy sources through microbes and the second one highlighted how to tackle environment and energy problems through microbial waste management.
By Shin Ji-hye (firstname.lastname@example.org)