Forging closer ties with Germany
Bronze bust of philosopher Karl Marx in Chemnitz, one of the cities visited in Germany.
An exploratory visit to Germany earlier this year by scientists from our Manufacturing and Bioproducts group has laid the foundations for what could become a valuable network of new research collaborations for the development of bioproducts.
The visit follows on the heels of a study tour visit to Scion, made in February, by a delegation of scientists under the FRIENZ ‘Factories of the Future’ initiative, which facilitates research and innovation between Europe and New Zealand.
Scion’s team focused their visits on German institutes involved in research to grow the global bioeconomy, specifically in the areas of biotechnologies, bioenergy, biochemical and biorefinery research.
“We came away with a much greater understanding of the German science environment,” says Dr Gareth Lloyd-Jones, science leader for biotransformation. “Being able to tour these facilities and talk with scientists directly has helped us identify individuals and regional clusters of research organisations with whom we could make valuable scientific collaborations.
“Germany tends to establish virtual research clusters with quite a bit of overlap between them. This means that our participation in relevant clusters would provide Scion with excellent future networking opportunities and a means to explore exchange visits with researchers and companies, and possible joint developments. It would also provide us with access to leading research infrastructure such as biorefinery pilot scale plants and agricultural sites.”
Dr Paul Bennett, science leader for clean technologies agrees. “The institutions we visited all had world class capability and facilities, particularly at pilot scale, and most of them were keen to explore possible collaborations with New Zealand.
“Germany is very active in general bioenergy and biorefinery research. The different research groups involved seemed to be well connected and have a good understanding of what other groups were doing within Germany. One common feature was the use of large flexible work spaces for their laboratory and pilot equipment.”
The team came away with a good possibility for collaborative work in carbon fibres and bioadhesives from lignin with one of the universities, which in turn would provide our scientists with access to their large scale processing equipment. Other possibilities also exist in thermochemical processing and biofuels research.
General Manager Manufacturing and Bioproducts Dr Elspeth MacRae says the visits are already yielding dividends, with return visits to key institutes in the lower Saxony region planned for October.
“Research institutes within this cluster, particularly Chemnitz University of Technology, align well with Scion’s focus in engineered wood and wood-fibre products, 3D printing, bioproducts and renewable chemicals, and packaging. We also want to explore possible bioenergy and biofuels research with Aachen University and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology.
“We have already applied to the Federal Ministry of Education and Research in Germany and the Royal Society for funding to consolidate our interaction with the Saxony cluster and grow joint activities. Other one-on-one relationships are also underway.”
This study tour was funded by the Royal Society of New Zealand and MBIE.