So what did people think of World Bio Markets 2016?
“WBM is unique in that it provides multiple opportunities for networking in an environment that doesn’t have that impersonal, large tradeshow feel. One can easily connect with colleagues and, due to the flow of the agenda and activities, naturally re-connect throughout the week.
Every year we attend WBM, and every year our company advances because of the connections and progress we make interacting with WBM delegates and speakers.”
Chief Executive Officer, Rivertop Renewables
“WBM is a perfect set up to meet, in one place, with fellow industrial partners. Even if usually think I know most of the things that deal with our business, this year again I met with a few actors with whom we could identify potential common interests!
The program was interesting, even if we tend to believe that things are rather quiet these days around bio-based industry, still new announcements were made, a few success stories presented. It's always enriching to see what the other are doing, and more importantly how they are doing to succeed.
Definitely a good place to be! Every year ”
Directeur Recherche, Innovation & Dévelopement Avril
“For us, World Bio Markets 2016 is one of the top 3 world wide events to establish new contacts with potential partners and clients.
In particular the broad attendance and online meeting tool are key factors to that. ”
Heade of Business Development, Global Bioenergies
“World Bio Markets is an excellent platform to connect the various players along the bio-based value chain.
Even in a challenging macro-economic environment it identifies success stories and highlights opportunities for the road ahead."
Managing Director, SusTech Consult
“It's unusual in the chemicals industry to have so many people attending a single event.
The presenters represented quality companies and overall there was an atmosphere of realism about the challenges but a confidence in the technologies. ”
VP Chemicals, Amec Foster Wheeler
“It’s why I’ve been coming to World Bio Market’s for years – To meet with other people from the industry, to meet with feedstock suppliers, with technology companies, chemical companies and with brand owners.
Bringing all these together makes it really worth it to visit such a conference.”
Tom van Aken
“I was very happy to see that the conference again put together solids and liquids, which was for us beneficial. I’ve seen more interesting people than the last edition – also industrial people which is good.”
Commercial Manager, Port of Ghent
“The event was terrific for meeting peers in the bioethanol sector and coming up with new ways to communicate ethanol's role in transport decarbonisation. ”
Industry, Policy & Technology Analyst, Ethanol Europe Renewables Ltd
“A conference where you can share with your peers and get the big picture of the present status of the bioindustry .”
Director of Biotechnology, Total
As the 11th annual World Bio Markets got underway on Monday 14th March attendees and speakers alike had their attention focused on one thing and one thing only. Getting the money in place to realise the many opportunities provided by the bioeconomy at commercial scale. The importance of finance and investment to those doing business in the bioeconomy, from start-up to large multinational corporates, unquestionable as the conference hall packed to standing-room only on this opening Finance and Investment Focus Day.
The initial investor panel served to highlight a number of key themes, and hammered home a lot of the overarching strategic criteria necessary for projects to raise capital in the current market. It also served to emphasise that whilst money is often hard to come by there are still big deals being done – see United Airlines’ bio jet fuel investments, and a couple of capital raises over 100 million USD in the last year such as that of Enerkem.
In terms of attracting investment the importance of people at the helm of a company, and the relationships they can nurture with investors, should never be underestimated. In particular it was noted that whilst scientists and engineers are critical at a projects’ inception, it is business people, with a business mind-set who are needed as a project develops. Risk was of course never far from the centre of discussion, and the multiplicity of risks facing projects in the bioeconomy meaning that to attract investors you have to show thorough risk mitigation strategies across a project lifecycle: feedstock, policy, finance itself, construction, technology, off-take and management. The panel concluded with discussion of strategic investors, and that to attract these you need to demonstrate that you are contributing to a long-term, demonstrable change to their business, not a “1 or 2-off occurrence”. Projects need to be patient (“the industry is still young!”), co-operative, happy to co-develop and able to co-produce to take advantage of the fuels - chemicals, high volume low margin - low volume high margin dichotomy.
"People accept it’s not the boom period of 2005-2007, but know that there’s still a market and great opportunities out there for entrepreneurial and strategically sound companies that do proper due-diligence and can forecast where markets will develop."
Following the first panel, and demonstrating in a timely manner a number of the attributes successful projects need was an AkzoNobel case study, showcasing their work with Enerkem and a wider consortium of private and public sector partners in the development of a biomethanol from industrial waste plant. With the plant expected to be on-line by 2018, the importance of working with a range of stakeholders in developing and funding a project (private and public) was key, a “coalition of the willing” who believe in the project, believe in the industry and are willing to all commit resources over the long term.
Following AkzoNobel we heard from a strategic investor, speciality chemicals company BASF. Who outlined what they look for in companies when they decide to invest, a balance of entrepreneurial and creative spirit, alongside commercial reality key here. They also asserted that it’s when, not if, oil once again rises. BASF were followed by an innovative organisation that fit somewhere between a development bank and a VC. Participatiefonds Duurzame Economie Noord-Holland giving a breakdown of their strategy to encourage investment within the Netherland’s bioeconomy as a path towards meeting its 2020 targets and Paris agreement obligations.
The final panel discussion on the day gave a lot of reasons for optimism. Highlighting that a number of key conditions remain that are positive for the bioeconomy, and the right people, approaching market areas with the right strategies can be very successful. China was cited as a fundamental positive driver, where pollution and oil dependency is a real challenge for an increasingly affluent population, and where there is political will to back bio-based solutions. Moreover in the western world consumers are genuinely environmentally conscious and do want to spend money on environmentally friendly products, only right now they won’t do so if it means spending more. If bio-based products can match petroleum based on price, that’s when they’ll get the upper hand.
They day concluded on a more sombre note as Bloomberg New Energy Finance delivered their presentation. Whilst first giving reasons for optimism – clean energy investment generally is positive, and has fought well against falling oil prices and economic decline more generally, biofuels themselves fare less well. In 2006/07 biofuels were a major contributor to the clean energy mix, since then and by 2015 the huge surge in wind and solar has seen biofuels share dwindle. Nevertheless optimism remained amongst the rest of the audience. People accept it’s not the boom period of 2005-2007, but know that there’s still a market and great opportunities out there for entrepreneurial and strategically sound companies that do proper due-diligence and can forecast where markets will develop.
"Clear for all in the room was that the bioeconomy can never be decoupled from the oil industry, and by nature the geopolitical context that drives it."
As the day rounded off with a bustling and vibrant drinks reception the overall sentiment was that whilst finding the money to get commercial scale projects underway in both biofuels and bio-based chemicals is a long way from easy, there are possibilities out there for those that are innovative, brave, rigorous and with a long-term de-risked strategy based on cooperation and partnerships.
In the morning of Tuesday 15th March and with the exhibition at the Passenger Terminal already in full swing Brussels-based energy and environment journalist Sonja van Renssen got the plenary sessions of WBM 2016 underway. Combining some macro-economic analysis, alongside some innovatively showcased project success stories and concluded with an inspirational 1 hour speech from Sir Ranulph Fiennes the plenary certainly got day 2 off with a bang.
Clear for all in the room was that the bioeconomy can never be decoupled from the oil industry, and by nature the geopolitical context that drives it. Nevertheless, consensus was that oil will rise again, it’s not an ‘if’ but a ‘when’ – dwindling, harder to reach supply and consistent demand will guarantee that. Once back at 60-80 dollars a barrel the bioeconomy is all of a sudden in a better place. Nevertheless, for fuels in particular companies need to be extremely strategic in how they can create a product that is of value and with a demand base, to do so political will is needed, and unfortunately too often lacking.
Chemicals remain in a better place and with advantages that fuels do not have. Though never easy, those with the most innovative and determined strategies have been able to accelerate a ‘pull’ from consumers and brands alike. In particular we heard success stories from Stora Enso and Reverdia. The former a pulp and paper giant who have gone from having no biomaterial products 10 years ago to today biomaterials accounting for 15% of what they do – whilst doing so seeing ROI and EBITDA increase too! It takes great minds, great partnerships, very forward thinking and a huge amount of innovation to create a success in the bioeconomy. With better mandates and more accessible capital for the commercial scale the scope could be huge, if and when these come will always be a critical question.
Following on from the business and industry speakers Sir Ranulph Fiennes wowed the audience. The tweet wall was alive with activity as attendees praised him and his speech for its inspiration and guidance in leadership, perseverance, team selection, motivation, forward thinking and patience. Particularly resonating with the audience, and following on from what was discussed in the finance day was his talk on team selection, and building partnerships with people based on their motivations, not necessarily their intelligence, as well as his emphasis on patience and perseverance. Of course this was all delivered with a healthy dose of British humour.
"It takes great minds, great partnerships, very forward thinking and a huge amount of innovation to create a success in the bioeconomy. With better mandates and more accessible capital for the commercial scale the scope could be huge, if and when these come will always be a critical question."
As the sessions were going on throughout the morning the partnering hub and meeting rooms were a hive of activity. Testament to the fact that whilst knowledge sharing and the telling of success stories is key, so too is creating a platform for the next wave of partnerships to develop.
Following a partnering lunch on the exhibition floor the conference split into three streams – biofuels, bio-based chemicals and biomass power. Each stream enabled participants to drum down into the specifics of their particular branch of the bioeconomy, though it’s clear that a lot of the challenges are shared across all 3, a lot can be learnt from one another and there is great overlap in business models. The chemical stream continued its trend as most popular with a packed room hearing how industry leaders across the value chain (including brand owners) are developing partnerships, targeting niche areas where they can offer value petrochemicals cannot and seeking to create the end demand to help pull the industry along.
Meanwhile in the fuels stream positive progress in both biojet fuel and new initiatives in biofuels for shipping were highlighted by speakers, before an interactive close with roundtable discussions where beer was served. The power stream continued to focus on critical issues for the sector including policy and sustainability criteria updates from Europe and trends in pellet market development.
A successful first day of exhibition and content concluded with a lively drinks reception followed by the Bio Business Awards Ceremony. Celebrating 8 different categories from across the bioeconomy the awards championed those individuals and companies going the extra mile to drive commercial development. A particular highlight was seeing Tom van Aken, CEO of Avantium crowned a winner on the day Avantium announced a JV with BASF – a genuine industry success story!
"If WBM is anything to go by an exciting year lies ahead for the bioeconomy, some great minds and a lot of willpower are behind the next wave of success stories."
Bustling, interactive sessions continued throughout day 3, as fuels, chemicals and power sessions remained focused on digging deeper into projects and initiatives that have, or are on the path to being genuine success stories. Particular highlights were an update from oil majors Shell and BP on their advanced biofuels strategy where patience, financing and rigorous R&D formed common themes. In the chemicals stream there was an action packed morning, where highlights included a number of companies currently navigating the so called valley of death showcasing their technical and commercial approaches, and highlighting the variety of niches where they can add value. Over in the power stream attendees were given insight into what a potential US biomass power market could look like after the clean power plan, as well as on some of Europe’s leading smaller scale biomass developers.
Concluding day 3 and the exhibition for 2016 was a final plenary session, where leaders from biofuels, bio-based chemicals and biomass power returned to one hall. Four members of the WBM Advisory Board, Kathryn Sheridan of Sustainability Consult, Jeff Passmore, Bill Strauss and Duncan Macleod capped things off with a wrap-up panel where each member gave their takeaways, top-tips and forecasts following WBM 2016.
All was however not quite finished at WBM 2016, one last networking drinks reception helped facilitate a good night’s sleep for all those returning for the fourth and final day of 2016 – the Feedstock and Emerging Markets Focus. Chaired by Henrique Pacini of UNCTAD the day blended an interactive mix of panels and roundtables to sign-off another great year of WBM.
If WBM is anything to go by an exciting year lies ahead for the bioeconomy, some great minds and a lot of willpower are behind the next wave of success stories. Let’s hope we see them at World Bio Makets 2017.
Takeaways included: ‘see it less a valley of death, more a valley of opportunity’, ‘biobased chemical niches are the way to go’, ‘biofuels are a long term play’, ‘biomass positives include Dutch policy and Lynemouth’, ‘strong balance sheets are key’
Forecasts included: ‘lignin to come to the fore’, ‘biojet progress’, ‘increasing feedstock focus’, ‘time to get used to failure – and not fear it’, ‘big corporates taking the lead’
World Bio Markets, Portfolio Director
+44(0)20 3384 6210
Meet the Bio Business Awards 2016 winners!