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Yokogawa Electric teams up with Swiss biotechnology startup

Yokogawa Electric teams up with Swiss biotechnology startup

Tokyo (SCCIJ) – Yokogawa Electric has signed an investment and partnership agreement with Bloom Biorenewables. The Swiss startup focuses on the utilization of biomass, intending to develop business opportunities in the bio-economy field. Before this deal, the Japanese conglomerate had established a Swiss subsidiary based at the Switzerland Innovation Park Basel Area.

Yokogawa Electric teams up with Swiss biotechnology startup

The Switzerland Innovation Park Basel Area is expanding rapidly (© Switzerland Innovation Park Basel Area).

Substituting petroleum

Yokogawa and Bloom will collaborate on the commercialization of a breakthrough technology from Bloom that maximizes the extraction of lignin from plant material to replace petrochemicals in a range of chemical products. Lignin is found in great abundance in trees and other biomass as one of the main structural components that bind together with cellulose and hemicelluloses to form plant cell wall structures.

Yokogawa and Bloom are both undertaking initiatives to promote the bio-economy, which involves the utilization of biomass and biotechnology. The agreement brings together Bloom’s lignin extraction technology with Yokogawa’s advanced technologies and know-how related to the automation of industrial production processes, as well as its global sales network.

Slowing climate change

Bloom’s CEO, Remy Buser, commented, “This new collaboration will help strengthen interactions with large industrial groups, drive internationalization, and ultimately accelerate market entry, which are all essential factors for countering climate change and having a significant impact.” Tsuyoshi Abe, a Yokogawa senior vice president, added: “Lignin has huge long-term potential as a petroleum replacement.”

Bloom was established in January 2019 as a spinoff from EPFL, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne. With the mission of making biomass a true alternative to petroleum, the startup is initially focusing on commercializing its new, far more efficient method of extracting lignin from biomass material such as wood. Its immediate goal is to demonstrate the technology in a pilot-scale plant.

Swiss subsidiary operates

In August, a new Swiss subsidiary of Yokogawa Electric started its operation at the Switzerland Innovation Park Basel Area in Allschwil. Yokogawa Innovation Switzerland GmbH opted for Allschwil due to its proximity to Basel, the “European center of the biotechnology and life science industry”, which it describes as an “ideal location”. The subsidiary aims to drive forward innovations in the field of biotechnology.

The market for bio-based products is set to continually expand. For this reason, Yokogawa is keen to exploit the expertise and personnel resources on offer in the Basel region to “explore new business opportunities, and forge alliances with other entities that have world-leading technologies”, the company stated in a press release.

To coincide with the opening of the new subsidiary, Yokogawa’s existing Swiss branch for its industrial automation business has also moved to the same location as the new company. To acquire technologies and expertise in the bio-economy field, Yokogawa has already taken steps such as investing in AlgaEnergy, a Spanish company leading in the production and application of microalgae.

Text: SCCIJ with material of Yokogawa

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