To know what was missing from the current landscape of open access infrastructures, we needed to have a clear overview of both the current and ideal situations and compare the two scenarios, but… how did we do this?

Pilots4U developed a survey to understand industry needs regarding large-scale equipment and associated expertise (ideal scenario) and compared the results with the open access, large-scale equipment assets available across Europe, listed in the Pilots4U online database (current situation). Continue reading to find out more about the survey!

Who Answered the Survey?

The survey was conducted electronically to increase accessibility, with a total of 101 responses received from 16 different EU Member States.

The survey targeted European SMEs and start-up companies focused on the development of new products or processes in the bio-based materials and chemicals sectors. Some 69% of respondents were SMEs, and 31% start-ups; all from different technology sectors within the bio-economy, with particularly high response turnover from the industrial biotechnology and chemical conversion of biomass or bio-derived intermediates.

Most answers came from Northern and Southern Europe where there are already many examples of companies working on the development of bio-based products and processes, as opposed to Eastern European countries probably because recognition of the bio-economy is less mature in this region.

Results

The existence of equipment and expertise, otherwise not available ‘in-house’ was the main reason for accessing open access pilot or demo plants. Equipment was not the only appealing factor for business to access pilot and demo plants, but also and more importantly the expertise that comes with it, necessary to develop, upscale or validate a process; Process technology support and engineering expertise were considered the most important support needs, with the vast majority of respondents be willing to pay to access such know-how. Conversely, it was clear that other forms of expertise such as financial, legal or marketing advice were not generally sought from such pilot facilities.

Regarding equipment assets, different priorities were evidenced in different EU regions; for example, Nordic country responses focused on the development of new bio-based materials, whereas Western or Southern European countries expressed more interest on equipment for liquid fermentation.

  • Both pre-treatment and downstream assets were priority equipment needs, regardless of the geographical location of the respondents. In part this reflects the dominance of fermentation technologies in this sector and the difficulties extracting products from solution.
  • Access to laboratory space and analytical equipment was also deemed very important by a majority of respondents, most of which would pay to access those services.

Although we received many responses, numbers were still limited, reflecting the embryonic nature of the sector, and survey results therefore need to be treated with some caution. However further validation of these findings was sought though discussion with experts in workshops addressing the survey findings.

You can download our survey infographics here to find out more about the survey results. If you want to know more about the workshops and their outcomes, read the dedicated article in this newsletter!

What's Next?

The Pilots4U survey allowed us to gain a better understanding of the needs for large-scale equipment and associated expertise. By comparing these survey results (ideal scenario) and the equipment listed in the database (current situation), Pilots4U identified a series of potential gaps in provision within the European landscape of open access large-scale pilot infrastructure which were validated through discussion with experts in a series of workshops. The most urgent gaps will be developed into business cases, which will be presented to a series of investors for discussion of possible means of funding.

Stay tuned for our next newsletter in which we will discuss the business cases and the outcomes of our roundtable with investors!

This project has received funding from the Bio Based Industries Joint Undertaking under the European Union’s 'Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme', under Grant Agreement No 730052