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MetGen Industrializes 4 Novel Enzymatic Technologies at Once in Integrated Biorefinery Flagship Project

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Kaarina, Finland, MetGen – industrial enzyme solution provider, is moving forward in an industrial demonstration of it’s four novel biorefinery solutions: Tailored hydrolysis solution, Enzymatic lignin depolymerization, Lignocellulosic glucose isomerization, and Glucose conversion to glucosone. The demonstration takes place as a part of partially publicly funded EU Flagship project SWEETWOODS.

SWEETWOODS is a 43-million-euro joint pilot project that was recently granted 21 million euros in funding under the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme’s Bio-Based Industries financial instrument. Horizon 2020 is the biggest research and innovation programme in the world, supporting the development and introduction of new technologies. Industry consortium led by OÜ Graanul Biotech and bringing together MetGen Oy, Global Bioenergies, Tecnaro GmbH, Armacell via Ultima GmbH, Recticel N.V., 2B Srl, Vertech Group and Spinverse Oy. SWEETWODS aims at establishing a completely unique wood fractionation Flagship plant and demonstration of novel value-chains based on sustainable hardwood resource.

“Receiving the EU funding is a major victory for all parties involved in the project and a testament to our tireless efforts. Specialists representing the European Union and bioindustries ranked the project as the best of the round of financing, giving the project full marks,” describes Peep Pitk, the R&D Manager of the Estonian Graanul Invest Group.

MetGen has worked for years to create technology platforms and an ecosystem where a financially sound biorefinery concept could be materialized. MetGen‘s role in this has been two-fold: MetGen has consistently worked towards bringing the relevant technologies towards commercial readiness and in parallel played a key role in bringing together like-minded organizations under a shared vision. Teamwork in a vast network of operators has helped MetGen to identify the strongest teams and technologies to make up complete value-chains from raw materials to market. Furthermore, the close collaboration at every step along the way has allowed MetGen to identify the areas where enzymatic technologies can complement chemical and mechanical steps.

“The project allows us to produce with wood what is currently made with oil. In a matter of only a few years, consumers may have access to innovative products made out of wood-based plastics, foams, and composites.” comments MetGen’s Chief Technology Officer Matti Heikkilä.

MetGen brings to SWEETWOODS new biorefinery solutions that will be integrated into demonstration facility.

Tailored hydrolysis solution

Every biomass is unique. Therefore MetGen is ready and willing to make a tailored hydrolysis solution to address the pretreated biomass that not only provides high yields and purity for the sugar and lignin fractions but also enables value-addition to the further products.

Enzymatic Lignin Depolymerization and Modification

With first-of-a-kind Lignolytic enzymes, which not only tolerate but prefer highly alkalic conditions MetGen is able to enzymatically fractionate and activate lignin at pH 11 water-soluble conditions without organic solvents or heavy metal catalysts. Enabled by the mild conditions the valuable and specific low molecular weight fractions can be harvested using affordable and straightforward membrane technologies.

Lignocellulosic glucose isomerization

While Glucose Isomerase is one of the oldest industrial enzymes it has, until now, lacked the capabilities to function with lignocellulosic sugars. MetGen has developed a Glucose Isomerize which functions despite the inhibitors (xylose, mannose, galactose, lignin…) providing higher yields of fructose that the competing solutions achieve in purified food applications.

Glucose bioconversion to glucosone

Glucosone has been known as a rare sugar mostly used as an intermediate for antibiotics. However, when brought to affordable commodity prices it provides many useful routes to renewable chemicals: this intermediate sugar can be chemically converted to many interesting platform chemicals. Furthermore, glucose to glucosone conversion is a complete one-way reaction. If can be further hydrogenated to fructose allowing for streamlined processes without glucose-fructose separation and providing high-concentration fructose as an affordable and sustainable raw material for bioplastic applications. Glucosone is also microbiologically more inert than dilute glucose solutions, allowing many benefits in plant scale operations and engineering.

MetGen Appoints Martin Granholm as Chairman of its Board of Directors

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Kaarina, Finland, MetGen – industrial enzyme solution provider, has appointed Forest Industry expert Martin Granholm as Chairman of its board of Directors. MetGen serves pulp & paper and renewable chemicals markets by delivering sustainable enzymatic solutions, and Granholm brings deep expertise and experience to the company.

“Forest industry is undergoing major changes as global demand for traditional forest products shifts. While helping the forest sector adjust to changes in market needs, MetGen is also involved in building relative new industry sector – renewable chemicals. I am confident that Martin experience will have an immediate impact on the direction of the company’s strategic development. MetGen’s team is excited to have Martin on our board, and we look forward to his guidance and contributions” said Alex Michine, CEO of MetGen.”

Martin Granholm is a former Deputy CEO of UPM-Kymmene Oyj. During his 35 years in several positions in the Forest Industry, he also acted as member and chairman in the boards of various organizations in Logistics, Energy, University, and Insurance. Furthermore, he has held positions in the Chamber of Commerce organization both locally and globally.

“During my time in the Forest industry, I have seen wood as different types of fibers and chemicals. Today, when industries look for entering the bio-stage, MetGen’s enzymes provide a real key into this future – and not only in the Forest sector. The market is asking for renewable concepts, energy savings, product quality improvements and environmentally friendlier solutions. MetGen is perfectly positioned in this development. I look forward to participating in building on this opportunity together with the board and the whole MetGen organization “, said Granholm

Vuoden 2018 teknologiajohtajat valittiin: Planmecan Vesa Varjonen ja MetGenin Matti Heikkilä ovat vaikuttaneet suomalaisen teollisuuden uudistumiseen

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Lehdistötiedote
Embargo 16.3.2018 klo 9.00

Suomalaisista teknologiavaikuttajista koostuva tuomaristo on valinnut vuoden 2018 teknologiajohtajiksi Planmecan teknologia- ja tutkimusjohtajan Vesa Varjosen ja MetGenin teknologiajohtajan Matti Heikkilän.

Vuodesta 2010 lähtien myönnetty tunnustuspalkinto jaetaan 19.3. suuryritysten ja pk-yritysten kategorioissa. Tällä kertaa valinnassa painottuivat yritykset, jotka ovat omilla toimillaan uudistaneet suomalaista teollisuutta. ”Suomen teollisuus on voimakkaassa muutoksessa, ja pk-yrityksillä on tärkeä rooli uuden liiketoiminnan kasvattamisessa. Planmeca ja MetGen ovat tästä huippuesimerkkejä: Planmeca on tutkimukseen ja tuotekehitykseen panostamalla ja digitalisaatiota hyödyntämällä luonut koko alaa uudistavia innovaatioita. MetGen taas on lähtenyt rohkeasti kehittämään täysin uutta teknologiaa kansainvälisille markkinoille ja kyennyt rakentamaan vaikuttavan kumppaniverkoston taakseen, kuvaa tuomariston puheenjohtaja Laura Juvonen Teknologiateollisuus ry:stä.

Suomalaisen terveysteknologian vientiä maailmalle: Planmeca

Planmeca on yksi maailman johtavista hammashoitolaitteiden valmistajista, jonka tuotteita viedään yli 120 maahan. Vuonna 1971 perustettu terveysteknologiayritys on malliesimerkki yhtiöstä, joka kehittää dynaamisesti maailman johtavaa teknologiaa – yrityksessä kiteytyy suomalaisen valmistavan teollisuuden uudistuminen. ”Planmeca ei ole yrityksenä ikinä valmis, eivätkä tuotteemme koskaan lakkaa kehittymästä. Ilman tätä mentaliteettia innovointi organisaatiossa kuolee”, toteaa Planmecan perustaja ja toimitusjohtaja Heikki Kyöstilä. Terveysteknologia-ala kasvaa Suomessa ja liikevaihdosta suurin osa tulee viennistä.

Vesa Varjonen on työskennellyt jo yli 25 vuotta monenlaisissa tehtävissä lääketieteellisen kuvantamisen parissa. Planmecalla vuodesta 2004 työskennellyt Varjonen nousi teknologia- ja tutkimusjohtajaksi vuonna 2015. ”Kasvuhalu ja motivaatio huokuvat esimerkin voimasta. Vesa Varjonen on tällainen esimerkki. Hänessä yhdistyvät vahva osaaminen, teknologian ja tutkimusmaailman syvä ymmärrys sekä vuosikymmenten ammattitaito”, Kyöstilä kertoo. ”Nopeasti kehittyvässä maailmassa toimijoiden yhteistyön merkitys korostuu entisestään, ja tässä Vesan rooli on tärkeä. Vesa onkin aktiivisesti mukana tekemässä yhteistyötä eri yliopistojen, tutkimusryhmien ja startup-yritysten kanssa.”

Varjonen on koulutukseltaan lääketieteellisen tekniikan diplomi-insinööri. ”Palkintoraadin keskustelussa nousi myös esille, kuinka tärkeää monialainen koulutus ja osaaminen on tulevaisuuden teknologioiden kehittämisessä ja hyödyntämisessä”, toteaa Juvonen.

Malliesimerkki uudistavasta voimasta: MetGen

MetGen Oy on entsyymituottaja, jonka tuotteet palvelevat laajaa kirjoa toimijoita sellu- ja paperiteollisuudesta jätevedenpuhdistamiseen sekä biopolttoaineisiin. Cleantech-yrityksen valmistamien entsyymien valttikortti on geneettinen räätälöinti, joka auttaa niitä kestämään vaativiakin olosuhteita. MetGen on kyennyt kokoamaan merkittävän määrän julkista rahoitusta kehittääkseen kumppaniensa kanssa uusia kestäviä tapoja parempaan raaka-aineiden käyttöasteeseen ja prosessien parantamiseen.

”Teknologiajohtaja Matti Heikkilä on henkilönä erittäin hyvä verkottuja. Hän ei pelkää lähestyä isojakaan pelureita, mikä on tärkeä ominaisuus kasvukiidossa olevalle pk-yritykselle. Heikkilä on roolimalli muille pk-yrityksien teknologiajohtajille näyttäessään, kuinka uusia ekosysteemejä rakennetaan EU-tukea hyödyntäen ja miten Suomea uudistetaan luomalla uusia, kestäviä ratkaisuja teollisuuteen”, toteaa Juvonen.

MetGenin vahvuuksia on uusien ratkaisujen tuominen laboratorioista markkinoille. Useissa tapauksissa juuri Heikkilä on ollut ajamassa uusia tuotteita nopeasti käytännön sovelluksiin. ”Matti on käytännössä omin käsin luonut kokonaisen arvoketjun tyhjästä. Hän jatkaa edelleen periksiantamattomalla sykkeellä uusien teknologioiden luomista myynnin tukena”, kertoo MetGenin toimitusjohtaja Alex Michine. Heikkilän ansioiksi voidaan lukea MetGenin tuotekehitysalusta, jonka avulla MetGen kykenee tuomaan uusia tuotteita ideasta markkinoille alle viidessä kuukaudessa – maailman johtava tehokkuus alalla. Hänen johdollaan tuotteiden valmistusprosessin päästöt on saatu minimoitua käytännössä nollaan.

Heikkilä vastaa päätoimensa lisäksi MetGenillä markkinoinnista ja uusien liiketoimintojen kehityksestä. ”Matin rakentamat ekosysteemit maksimoivat kaikkien tahojen saaman hyödyn. Hänellä on uskomaton kyky muovata kokonaisia toimialoja visiollaan”, Michine hehkuttaa. ”On ällistyttävää, kuinka hän kykenee välittämään visiomme niin yrityksen sisällä kuin rahoittajienkin keskuudessa, erityisesti niinkin kompleksisella alalla kuin biotuoteteknologiassa.”

Lisätietoja:

Palkintolautakunnan sihteeri Pekka Koponen, puh. 040 545 0008

Planmeca                                                                                                                                           
Vesa Varjonen
Vice President, Research and Technology
vesa.varjonen@planmeca.com                                                                                        
0408658865

MetGen
Matti Heikkilä
CTO
matti@metgen.com
0403540701

Business Finland                                
Pekka Soini
Pääjohtaja
pekka.soini@businessfinland.fi
0405252169

Teknologiateollisuus ry
Laura Juvonen
Johtaja, kasvu ja uudistuminen
laura.juvonen@teknologiateollisuus.fi
0405896263

Spinverse
Pekka Koponen
Founder, CEO
pekka.koponen@spinverse.com
0405450008

Vuoden teknologiajohtaja -tunnustuspalkinto jaetaan jo kahdeksatta kertaa tunnustuksena teknologiajohtajalle, joka on työllään vaikuttanut yrityksensä teknologiakyvykkyyteen ja kasvumahdollisuuksiin, toimii inspiroivana johtajana sekä vaikuttaa aktiivisesti yhteiskunnallisissa verkostoissa. Palkinnon saajan valitsee Suomen teknologiavaikuttajista koostuva tuomaristo. Tuomariston puheenjohtajana toimii johtaja Laura Juvonen Teknologiateollisuus ry:stä. CTO-Forum on Suomen teknologiajohtajien yhteisö, joka kokoaa Suomen eri yritysten innovaatio- ja teknologiajohtajat verkostoitumaan, keskustelemaan ja jakamaan ideoita yli toimialarajojen. CTO-Forumin tavoitteena on kasvattaa yritysten ja teknologiajohtajien tekemän työn arvostusta ja tunnettuutta. CTO-Forumin järjestää ja tunnustuspalkinnon jakaa yhteistyössä Business Finland, Teknologiateollisuus ry ja Spinverse.

www.ctoforum.fi

 

 

ECOLAB AGREES TO ACQUIRE MINORITY OWNERSHIP IN FINNISH METGEN OY

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Ecolab Inc., the global leader in water, hygiene and energy technologies and services has acquired a minority stake in Metgen OY. As part of the acquisition, Ecolab will be granted exclusive distribution rights globally for Metgen OY’s pulp and paper portfolio, as well as its wastewater enzyme portfolio. This business supplies differentiated custom blended enzymatic solutions to maximize biomass performance for various industries.

MetGen, headquartered in Kaarina, Finland, designs novel enzymatic solutions to improve energy efficiency and speed of processes in industries such as Pulp and Paper, Biofuels and Biochemicals.

“We are glad to welcome Ecolab as an investor in MetGen. Our business goals are fully aligned with Ecolab’s objective to support customers to achieve the best solutions in water technologies for the pulp and paper sector.  MetGen is excited to work together with the Ecolab team to accelerate market growth through the global introduction of innovative, sustainable enzymatic solutions in various business segments,” said Alex Michine, CEO of MetGen.

The investment provides Ecolab with access to innovative custom enzymes to help producers improve machine efficiency, water and energy savings, product quality and profitability. The terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

“We are excited to work with MetGen and implement their innovative products into our offerings to enhance Ecolab’s ability to provide value-added solutions for our customers in the Pulp and Paper Industry,” said Jerome Charton, senior vice president and general manager, Nalco Water global paper, Ecolab’s water management business.

For more information, please contact:

Alex Michine, CEO, MetGen Oy, +358 40 543 3740

skype: alexmichine


 About MetGen Oy

MetGen designs and markets novel enzymatic solutions for the most challenging of industrial conditions to address our customer’s specific challenges. MetGen’s enzymes – MetZyme® – are industrial, highly-active, natural catalysts that accelerate chemical reactions and company uses advances in genetic engineering and microbiology to adapt enzymes to harsh industrial conditions and to handle a variety of lignocellulosic substrates. MetGen aims to be a widely recognized supplier of industrial enzymes, significantly contributing to the economics and sustainability of process industries such as pulp & paper, biofuels and biochemicals. MetGen’s competitive advantage is in tailoring or adapting enzymes to meet customer’s specific needs. www.metgen.com


About Ecolab

A trusted partner at more than one million customer locations, Ecolab (ECL) is the global leader in water, hygiene and energy technologies and services that protect people and vital resources. With 2016 sales of $13 billion and 48,000 associates, Ecolab delivers comprehensive solutions and on-site service to promote safe food, maintain clean environments, optimize water and energy use, and improve operational efficiencies for customers in the food, healthcare, energy, hospitality and industrial markets in more than 170 countries around the world. Follow us on Twitter @ecolab, Facebook at facebook.com/ecolab, LinkedIn at Ecolab or Instagram at Ecolab Inc.

Technology Academy Finland awards Finnish biotech company: Millennium Distinction Award goes to MetGen, producer of industrial enzymes

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Technology Academy Finland (TAF) has given the Millennium Distinction Award to MetGen Oy, a company specialising in directed evolution, also known as protein engineering.

TAF awards the Millennium Distinction Award on alternate years with the Millennium Technology Prize. The Distinction is awarded to a company or researcher operating in Finland whose work is connected with the research field of the preceding winner of the Millennium Technology Prize. The 2016 Millennium Technology Prize was awarded to Professor Frances Arnold from the United States for developing a new and efficient method for creating proteins in the laboratory. Engineered proteins can be used to replace expensive or fossil-fuel-based production in many areas of industry. 2017 Millennium Distinction Award recipient MetGen also employs the methods pioneered by Professor Arnold.

“The one-million-euro Millennium Technology Prize is an international award of recognition, whereas the Millennium Distinction Award is designed to reward and showcase cutting-edge commercial applications and research in the same field in Finland,” says Ari Ahonen, CEO of Technology Academy Finland. “With this year’s Millennium Distinction Award we support a Finnish enterprise that is fast gaining international recognition and also participates in several sustainable EU projects.”

MetGen provides cleantech solutions for industry

Founded in 2008 in Kaarina, Finland, MetGen Oy provides enzymes to the constantly growing biomass market. The mission of the cleantech company is to empower businesses in employing faster and more energy-efficient processes by providing them with enzymes, proteins that function as catalysts also in nature. The advantage of the genetically engineered enzymes developed by MetGen is that they can withstand challenging conditions in industrial production, such as extreme pH values and high temperatures.

MetGen develops new enzymes for three sectors of the industry: pulp and paper industry, biofuels, and industrial waste water processing. In pulp production, for instance, savings in energy, cost and time are significant when the chips can be partially broken down with enzymes prior to pulping. Enzymes can also be used to manufacture bioethanol fuel from pulp production waste.

MetGen has excelled in utilizing advanced methods of directed evolution and protein engineering for benefit of green chemistry by aiming to reduce pollutants and the use of non-renewables in various industries.

“The great challenge for the future is to utilise all fractions of the biomass feedstock to produce chemicals and materials,” says Alex Michine, CEO of MetGen. “We are planning to address the full value-chain in bioprocessing, targeting zero waste performance and lowering the carbon footprint.”

MetGen has previously won other awards, including the European John Sime Award for Most Innovative Technology of 2016. Moreover, in 2014 the Global Cleantech Cluster Association named MetGen one of the top 10 cleantech cluster companies in the world.

“It is an honour and a privilege to receive the Millennium Distinction Award. We see this award as a huge motivator to contribute even more to further growth of sustainable bioeconomy”, says CEO Alex Michine.

Technology Academy Finland TAF will present the Millennium Distinction Award in cooperation with the City of Turku, Turku Science Park, Turku University of Applied Sciences, University of Turku and Åbo Akademi on 2 November 2017 at 18.00 at Turku City Hall. Representatives of the media are welcome to attend.

The next Millennium Technology Prize will be awarded on 22 May 2018.

Enquiries:

Technology Academy Finland (TAF)
Ari Ahonen, CEO, ari.ahonen@taf.fi, tel. +358 40 061 8300
Media relations: Laura Manas, Communications Manager, laura.manas@taf.fi, tel. +358 500 989 286

JURY OF THE MILLENNIUM DISTINCTION AWARD 2017

Christine Hagström-Näsi, Senior Advisor, Click Innovation Oy
Mart Saarma, Professor, University of Helsinki
Jukka Seppälä, Professor, Aalto University

Sweetwater Energy Announces Licensing Agreement for MetGen’s Groundbreaking Lignin Fractionation Technology

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Sweetwater Energy, Inc., a Rochester NY-based renewable bio-products producer, has finalized a licensing and joint technology development agreement with the Finnish company MetGen Oy. Cooperation will allow the development of a full range of high value lignin-based products including resins and adhesives, foams and composites and bio-based chemicals and polymers to meet the growing needs of a fast changing world.

MetGen is a pioneer in lignocellulosic industrial enzymes and renewable chemicals. The license is for MetGen’s LIGNOTM technology platform which facilitates the enzymatic break down of Sweetwater’s ultra-clean lignin into its fundamental component parts. Sweetwater and MetGen will carry out the commercialization of both technology platforms at Sweetwater’s commercial facility in Rochester NY and will roll the technology out to facilities world-wide.

“By introducing highly profitable products produced from Sweetwater’s Ultra-ligninTM, we are advancing the global bioeconomy by economically competing directly with products from the petrochemical industry.  MetGen’s LIGNOTM technology will allow us to create high quality, low cost products that unlock the true value of the lignin.  The increased revenues from our high value lignin will also allow us to price wood-based cellulosic sugars at well below corn sugar for the first time in history. Cellulosic sugars can be used as renewable non-food resources for biochemical and biofuel industries” said Arunas Chesonis, Sweetwater’s Chairman and CEO.

MetGen’s CEO Alex Michine said “Over the past years MetGen has accumulated extensive experience on applying enzymes in industrial biorefineries. In this work, we have recognized how important it is to match the proper technologies throughout the value-chain. This is why we are excited about the pairing of Sweetwater’s Sunburst technology with our LIGNOTM platform.  Every processing step and every fraction of the raw material counts when creating renewable –and affordable – chemicals and materials out of lignocellulosic biomass.”

For more information, please contact:

Alex Michine, CEO, MetGen Oy
+358405433740
skype: alexmichine
www.metgen.com

About MetGen Oy

MetGen designs and markets novel enzymatic solutions for the most challenging of industrial conditions to address our customer’s specific challenges. MetGen was founded in 2008 and is based in Kaarina, Finland. MetGen’s enzymes – MetZyme® – are industrial, highly-active, natural catalysts that accelerate chemical reactions and company uses advances in genetic engineering and microbiology to adapt enzymes to harsh industrial conditions and to handle a variety of lignocellulosic substrates. MetGen aims to be a widely recognized supplier of industrial enzymes, significantly contributing to the economics and sustainability of process industries such as pulp & paper, biofuels and biochemicals. MetGen’s competitive advantage is in tailoring or adapting enzymes to meet customer’s specific needs.

About Sweetwater Energy Ltd.

Sweetwater Energy is a Rochester, NY-based company that has developed a unique and patented technology for producing low-cost sugars and clean lignin fiber from multiple non-food plant materials to help meet the modern world’s increasing demand for biochemicals, bioplastics and biofuels. Begun in 2009 in the Rochester Institute of Technology incubator, the company now has a comprehensive intellectual property portfolio of issued and pending patents around the modular approach to produce sugars and clean lignin that are both less expensive and substantially more favorable for the environment than competing products available today from petroleum and food crops.

The LIGNOTM field of application has been expanded to a wider pH range, with alkaliphilic enzymes that can effectively function at a pH up to 11.  This means that they function at a pH where lignin is fully soluble, with an added benefit of outstanding thermo-tolerance.  These advances allow the rapid production of smaller, more active and uniform aromatics. This fractionation of lignin suddenly enables drop-in solutions in coatings, plasticizers, polyurethanes, binders and fuels that have yet to be fully realized with existing crude lignin. 

MetGen finalist of the 2017 Pulp & Paper International Awards for Innovation in Cellulosic Applications

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The Pulp and Paper International Awards are the only global awards that are dedicated to recognizing the achievements of companies, mills, and individuals in the pulp and paper sector. It provides a platform that honors a multitude of different categories celebrating leadership, vision, innovation and strategic accomplishments within the industry.

MetGen has been selected for the new category rewarding Innovation in Cellulosic Applications. Judges were looking for evidence of applications and commercials development but also for advances in research or improved production techniques. Thus, MetGen is proud to be one of those 2017 PPI Awards finalists and to represent Finnish cleantech in such esteemed crowd.

It is time for biotechnology solutions to enhance the pulp and paper industry.

Read more about Pulp & Paper International Awards at https://events.risiinfo.com/ppi-awards/

METGEN INVENTS NOVEL
CHEMO-ENZYMATIC
ROUTE TO FDCA

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MetGen has invented a revolutionary chemo-enzymatic pathway that enables streamlined processes towards platform chemicals, for example FDCA.

MetGen’s ENZINE® Technology Platform allows the design and production of the necessary enzymes for full bioconversion of glucose. Required enzymatic solutions have not been commercially available – until now. The advantage of this enzymatic reaction stems from the complete conversion of the glucose. In the conventional fructose-based process the conversion between glucose and fructose reaches an equilibrium at less than 50% fructose, therefore requiring an additional and inefficient separation step. It is noteworthy in the case of MetGen’s approach that no additional chemicals or co-factors are needed in order to perform the bioconversion. 

Furthermore, MetGen has filed a patent on the chemical route to convert the resulting sugars to oxidized forms of 5-HMF. In that respect the dehydration of the MetGen’s bioconversion product is considered to be much more efficient than the dehydration of fructose: This form of sugar is known to have above 90% conversion yields, whereas fructose dehydration has only around 60% yield.

MetGen’s MetZyme® enzymatic solutions cover the entire bio-based value chain from feedstock to high-value chemicals and enable the use of cellulosic feedstocks as well as the creation of entirely new bio-based materials. In this context, MetGen’s latest innovation also applies to the conversion of all types of cellulosic sugars to more easily chemically convertible sugars. This is believed to represent a major boost to the cost-competitiveness of any biorefinery concept.

Alex Michine, MetGen CEO, states: “In this context, MetGen’s latest innovation on the chemo-enzymatic route to oxidized forms of 5-HMF, is a great example of our capacity to enable entire bio-based industries”.

MetGen’s new innovation therefore allows the possibility of dramatically improving the efficiency and economics of renewable chemicals production including, but not limited to, bioplastics. 

On the whole, MetGen’s new innovation therefore provides a possibility of dramatically increasing the efficiency and economics of renewable chemicals including, but not limited to, bioplastics. As such, it is therefore potentially a key accelerator of the displacement of fossil fuels as a feedstock by bio-based alternatives.

Matti Heikkilä, CTO of MetGen: A clear path ahead of the bioeconomy– Expert opinion in European Biotechnology Life Science and Industry Magazine, 2017

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A clear path ahead for the bioeconomy

There’s no way around it: renewables are the future, Matti Heikkilä believes. European Biotechnology talked to the CTO of Finnish bioeconomy company MetGen about what bio-based products need to bring to the table to usurp their fossil-based counterparts.

European Biotechnology 
Matti, you say we need to stop using fossil fuels. But right now there hardly seems to be a consensus on that – especially among politicians. Are you sure this is going to happen in our lifetimes?
Matti Heikkilä
It is hard to be sure about such things – there are sometimes political decisions that defy logic and reason. But I most certainly hope so! I think the key there is to stop wishing it will happen and work towards that goal, by making renewable fuels and chemicals and good alternatives a viable choice for the oil-based industry. In fact, I already see the transition happening. There are big industries, in pulp and paper and packaging, and they all, especially in Europe, seem to share the vision that the chemicals and the materials that are made of oil today can be replaced and, in some cases, even better materials can be found using renewable resources.

European Biotechnology 
Has Europe advanced further down the path towards a bioeconomy?
Heikkilä
There is a much greater political will going in this direction, especially when compared with what is happening in the US. There are more market-driven approaches on the other side of the Atlantic, but I think there are not as many political drivers to go towards green objectives. Another benefit that we have in Europe is the strong co-operation that stems from the programmes like Horizon 2020, which puts together the best experts from both academia and the industry working towards common goals. This is getting much better nowadays – it’s a much more open and cross-disciplinary collaboration than it was before. One reason for this is: it’s a much more market-driven approach. People are sharing their information with their own benefit in mind. If they make the whole value chain work, it enables their business.

European Biotechnology 
So it is all about the value chains?
Heikkilä
Absolutely. For example, at MetGen, we have created an enzyme that is very good at converting the sugars in wood even at lower purity levels, just to help the value chain. It does not take anything away from us that the pre-treatment company makes a good pre-treated wood slurry as the substrate for our enzymes; and if a chemical company can then turn the result into a plastic bottle, that is also good for our business. It is all about collaboration to fix these value chains. So can we replace petrol-based chemicals in our lifetime? I believe we can do it much faster. Most of the technology already exists, and it is just a matter of connecting the dots, and the right capabilities and people.

European Biotechnology
How does Finland compete within the European bioeconomy?
Heikkilä

Finland’s resources are almost all wood – similar to our Scandinavian neighbours, but different from many European countries. Even in the European-wide bioeconomy strategy, there are separate sections for different countries because the national capabilities and resources are so different. In Germany and the Netherlands, for example, the focus is heavily on biochemicals. The bioeconomy is driven by the industry that is strong locally. The same is true for Finland. Forestry and pulp and paper drives the bioeconomy relatively heavily here. At the same time, since we are up in the North, we do not have the same productivity when it comes to agriculture. We have the bioeconomy strategy implemented on the government level, and it also focusses on the wood-based biomasses. Our company, MetGen, also concentrates on those materials for the most part.

European Biotechnology 
Isn’t it risky to rely on one resource only?
Heikkilä
Actually, MetGen is not picky about the biomass. Wood is where our expertise really shines because that’s the harder substrate. As a rule of thumb, the more lignin you have, the harder it is to put it to economic use. However, the more we assess it, the more we realise that wood is actually a great resource. Wood is not really that expensive. It is also in year-round supply, while grass or straw need to be stored somehow, which then leads to practical issues that come with storing, like the risk of fire and the need for storage space. Also, wood has a lot of sugars to it. Eighty percent of it is sugar – you just need to know how to crack it. And not least, the supply chain is already there. Wood is already being utilised in large quantities. So to me, it is just about transitioning towards using bio­chemicals. MetGen aims to provide the new technologies for pulp and paper to do that.

European Biotechnology
How exactly do you do that?
Heikkilä
Let me give you an example. We were requested to come up with a laccase that could survive a pH of 10 to 11, or even be at an optimum in this range, so that it could be used in Kraft pulping to help the bleachability and de­lignification of that process. The company that requested this hardly thought it was possible, but we agreed to give it a try. And five months later, we had that molecule industrially produced. And while it was requested by a single company, it now benefits the entire industry.

European Biotechnology
What role does the consumer play? Can bio-based products only succeed if there is a demand for environmentally friendly alternatives?
Heikkilä
Not at all! The funny thing is: the Polyethylene Furanoate, or PEF for short, is not actually biodegradable. But it is a better alternative to PET. It is a better packaging material; it has better barrier properties than oil-based alternatives; it makes the beverage have a better shelf-life – the oxygen stays out and the carbonation stays in. So in a first step, it might not replace PET-bottles, but it is replacing aluminium cans and glass bottles. Because it has the same superior properties as those. Later, it will overtake the other plastic packaging. So the green alternative is actually better than we can get out of oil. And that’s the thing: For a bio-based alternative to succeed, it has to be as good as the petrol-based product but cheaper, or the same price but better.

European Biotechnology
So what is needed for the bioeconomy to come out on top?
Heikkilä
What is needed for that to happen is us in Europe starting to put down money and investment on piloting and market demonstration of technologies. We use a lot of resources and money on research, but then we fail to finance the commercialisation of those technologies. The same is not true of the Chinese or the Americans. We use roughly 90 percent of our resources on research and the remaining ten on development. The same numbers in the US are roughly fifty-fifty, and in China, they use more money on the development and scale-up and commercialisation of things than research. So, what happens in a globalised world is that we use taxpayer money here in Europe to create good products, and then we end up selling them to other continents. My second point is the brain leak if you will. We have to make sure we have incentives for experts globally to come to Europe and help us solve these value chain-wide challenges I mentioned. Europe cannot be the place where we start building walls. Every expert that we get, no matter from what country, will create more work around themselves. So we should not be afraid of losing our jobs if foreign experts come over. Rather, we should be giving them incentives to come. Right now, people are moving away from Finland, and from Europe, to other places where there are more incentives for the brightest and the best of us to succeed. We really need them here.

Matti Heikkilä is Chief Technology Officer of Finnish bioeconomy company MetGen Oy, which develops enzymatic solutions for processing lignocellulosic biomass. Last year, MetGen won the John Sime Award for Most Innovative New Technology at the European Forum for Industrial Biotechnology and the Bioeconomy (EFIB). Heikkilä has more than a decade of experience in European industrial biotechnology.

Finnish MetGen wins the John Sime Award for biotechnology

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Finnish enzyme producer MetGen won the John Sime Award for Most Innovative New Technology at the European Forum for Industrial Biotechnology and the Bioeconomy (EFIB). Along with several other enterprises in its industry, MetGen – already a leading Finnish bioeconomy company – is now pursuing strong international growth.

MetGen, which produces customised industrial enzymes particularly for the processes of the pulp and paper industry, has won the John Sime Award for Most Innovative New Technology at the European Forum for Industrial Biotechnology and the Bioeconomy (EFIB). The winner was selected by the Forum’s participants, comprised of biotechnology professionals, investors and decision-makers, among others.

“Small companies like us in the biotechnology sector do accept even great challenges and, thereby, risks, in their quest to change the world. We are also taking the industrial sector in a more sustainable direction and pointing the way for large-scale operators. It is important for us to be open to cooperation and find skillful partners. Our open-minded approach and our team’s consummate competence appealed to the Forum’s audience, and we are genuinely flattered by the award. I believe that the award will help us to find partners,” says MetGen’s Chief Technology Officer Matti Heikkilä.

The enzymes tailored by MetGen speed up processes in the pulp and paper industry, generating considerable savings in energy and raw materials. According to Heikkilä, the company is now aiming at strong international growth.

“We have just launched sales in our main market and will now aim to scale this into larger growth. Finpro’s help and knowledge on networking and entering new export markets has been very important for us. Finland possesses a vast amount of first-rate biotechnology know-how, but no-one is going to come over here and carry us away. Rather, we have to be bold, enter the international arena together and make ourselves known,” says Heikkilä.

Opening up the bottlenecks in the growth of bioeconomy companies

Thanks to large-scale operators in the pulp and paper industry, the bioeconomy has a long tradition in Finland. New technologies and increasingly strict regulations have opened up plenty of new bioeconomy opportunities, which are being seized particularly eagerly by innovative small and medium-sized enterprises. Pia Qvintus, who heads Finpro’s Innovative Bioproducts Growth Program as a Program Manager, is indeed of the opinion that Finland also has a number of other small companies that represent innovative, first-rate competence and now find themselves in a similar situation to MetGen.

“Companies in the bioeconomy industry have developed new ways to create value-added products as well as energy and resource-efficient processes and technologies for their customers. These companies are in a growth phase and share challenges involving the start-up of production, for example, as well as financing and international growth. The companies’ own resources are largely tied up in product development and production, due to which they are not necessarily able to build international partnerships and sales on their own in several markets in the long term. Finpro’s programme aims to help companies overcome such challenges and to introduce new solutions created by the Finnish bioeconomy abroad,” outlines Pia Qvintus.

Finpro’s Innovative Bioproducts Growth Program includes 17 other companies in addition to MetGen. One of these is Paptic, which has developed a recyclable, bio-based and biodegradable, wood fibre-based material. The first commercial application of this material involves a replacement for plastic bags. Demand for Paptic’s product has increased as a result of the bans and restrictions on plastic bags that are becoming increasingly widespread in various countries.

For further information, please contact:
Pia Qvintus, Program Manager for the Innovative Bioproducts Growth Program, Finpro +358 50 563 4129, pia.qvintus@finpro.fi

Matti Heikkilä, Chief Technology Officer, MetGen Oy, +358403540701, matti@metgen.com

Hetta Huittinen, Communications Manager, Finpro, +358 40 033 9597, hetta.huittinen@finpro.fi

Finpro helps Finnish SMEs go international, encourages foreign direct investment in Finland and promotes tourism. Finpro comprises Export Finland, Visit Finland and Invest in Finland. Finpro is a public sector operator with 240 experts serving in 37 export centres in 31 countries and 6 regional offices in Finland. www.finpro.fi
Finpro – Growth for Finland

As a partner of Team Finland, Finpro manages nearly 40 significant growth programmes, such as Cleantech Finland, Food from Finland and FinlandCare. These growth programmes allow Team Finland to help hundreds of Finnish companies go international and attract foreign investments in Finland. www.teamfinland.fi