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08.02.2017An interview with Manfred Kircher, CLIB2021
Interview by Mario Bonaccorso

There is reason to be concerned that the US will lose its driving role in scaling up biorefineries as it has been the case with bioethanol. On the other hand there are two sides to every coin. Europe should continue its path undeterred and take the first-mover advantage. Concerning the Brexit the continental and the British Europe should realize that we share the very same atmosphere; pushing the bioeconomy should remain our common objective. Manfred Kircher, who chairs the Advisory Boards of KADIB and the German Industrial Biotechnology Cluster CLIB2021, talks to The BioJournal. Based on more than 30 years experience in chemical industry and bioeconomy, Kircher he works on regional as well as international bioeconomy strategies. CLIB2021 is an association of about 100 industries, research organisations, investors and development organisations located in Germany, EU and beyond. It is focused on open innovation along bioeconomy value chains.

Manfred Kircher’s career milestones are biotechnological research and development (Degussa AG, Germany), production (Fermas s.r.o.; Slovakia), venture capital (Burrill & Company; USA), biotechnology partnering and branding (Evonik Industries AG; Germany) and building the biotechnology cluster CLIB2021. Manfred Kircher is biologist by training (Goethe-University; Frankfurt, Germany). He has been awarded with a honorary professorship of the Michurinsk State Agrarian University (Russia).

2016 was characterized by the prominence of Southern Europe in the field of bioeconomy: Spain and Italy presented their own national strategy. From the point of view of Germany, what role has the Mediterranean for the development of the European bioeconomy?

Southern Europe has a great potential in the European bioeconomy due to its unique climate and geographical environment as well as its pioneering companies and academic institutes. The long coast line to the Mediterranean sea offers so far underestimated marine resources, the great potential in renewable energies like solar and wind provide opportunities such as power to gas linked to CO2-utilization, and mediterranean agriculture produces a cornucopia of starch and oil crops including biomass. Southern Europe can build on established and promising breeding grounds for innovation. A model example is Lombardia with its established infrastructure of bioeconomy companies like Novamont, incubators like Parco Tecnologico Padano in Lodi, universities like Milano, and last not least networking organisations. The fact that Spain and Italy presented their own national strategies is extremely supportive as it helps to harmonize public and private projects, investments and politics. From the point of view of Germany this step will help very much to agree about common approaches and partnering.

In what way, however, the Brexit and the election of Donald Trump in the US will be able to have influence on the development of the European bioeconomy?

The new US administration has announced to pay not as much attention to climate change as before. There is reason to be concerned that the US will lose its driving role in scaling up biorefineries as it has been the case with bioethanol. On the other hand there are two sides to every coin. Europe should continue its path undeterred and take the first-mover advantage. Concerning the Brexit the continental and the British Europe should realize that we share the very same atmosphere; pushing the bioeconomy should remain our common objective.