Switchgrass (left), a perennial warm season grass native to North America, can be made into renewable biofuel. Fermentation equipment (right) uses microorganisms to ferment glucose (complex sugars) into ethanol, one of the most common biofuels.

$2.4M fund to develop products from bio-based feedstocks

Thanks to a $1.09 million grant from the Michigan Strategic Fund, plus matching funds from Michigan State University (MSU), several bio-based MSU research projects will be fast-tracked for commercial development over the next three years.

MSU recently received the funding from the Michigan Translational Research and Commercialization (“M-TRAC”) program as part of a state-wide initiative to invest in research areas that have shown promise in the laboratory, but need further development in order to become successful in a competitive market. With MSU’s matching funds, a total of $2.44 million will be focused on MSU biotechnology and bioprocessing innovations that have the potential to create superior value-added products and materials from agricultural-based feedstocks, such as:

  • Converting biomass feed stocks to chemical intermediates, high value oils, monomers, and polymers;
  • Developing “trait genes” that selectively promote high-value downstream products;
  • Developing microbes and algae for production of chemicals and biofuels;
  • Developing technology to pre-treat and process biomass to upgrade the feed stocks and dramatically improve the economics of downstream processing;
  • Developing agricultural technologies to reduce the environmental footprint and resource requirements (water, nutrients) in farming.

Over the next three years MSU researchers will be able to apply for funding to help drive laboratory technology toward commercialization, including support for scale-up services in fermentation technology, biochemical synthesis, separations and purification offered through MSU’s affiliated process and scale-up facilities: MBI in Lansing, Mich., and the MSU Bioeconomy Institute in Holland, Mich. 

“The bio-based chemical industry is expected to grow to more than $450 billion by 2025,” says Richard Chylla, executive director of MSU Technologies. “With a targeted investment like this, the State of Michigan is leveraging the rich pipeline of MSU’s basic science and research in this sector – which includes more than 34 principal researchers and 111 pending and issued patents – to produce materials, energy, and end-use products from sustainable sources that benefit society.”