Surf’s up! Ride the wave of new biomaterials

Surf's Up Bioeconomy Summit

Dr. Lalitha Gottumukkala, is Chief Innovation Officer at Celignis Biomass Analysis Laboratory in Limerick.  She will be one of our speakers at the upcoming National Bioeconomy Summit and we recently spoke to her to find out a bit more.

What will you be talking about at the National Bioeconomy Summit?

I will talk on the potential of seaweed in the Irish Bioeconomy and how seaweed-derived materials can be superior to the existing fossil-derived materials that are currently used in personal care, textiles, paints, coating, and biomedical applications. The focus of the talk will be on the work we are doing at Celignis on fractionation of seaweed and converting seaweed polymers to wide range of innovative biomaterial products.

What motivates you about the bioeconomy?

The ground breaking discoveries and inventions in the last century centred around fossil fuel resources. The new materials and chemicals gave us enormous opportunities and choices in our day-to-day life, but at the cost of resource depletion, species extinction and huge geo-economic imbalance. We need to shift economic activities from unsustainable oil to sustainable biomass. There is huge potential for biomass to sustainably meet global energy, chemical and material needs, but the shift required is massive and it needs effort from every scientist, every business and every individual. The simple fact that even small businesses like us (Celignis Biomass Laboratory) are striving to make that shift happen motivates me.

What do you do/your organisation in the bioeconomy?

Celignis is a Biomass Laboratory located in Limerick, Ireland. The company started as an analysis laboratory for advanced biofuel feedstocks, but slowly the focus has expanded to the whole area of bioeconomy. With in-depth understanding of biomass chemistry through analysis, we develop be-spoke bioconversion processes that adhere to sustainability and green chemistry principles. We have developed and/or optimised a range of bioprocesses for clients worldwide. Our services range from relatively simpler processes like anaerobic digestion and biochar to complex processes like selective fractionation of biomass for the production of advanced biofuels, high value chemicals and polymers. We are involved in several EU projects based on our experience in biomass chemistry and bioprocess development.

What sectors do you see the bioeconomy developing in Ireland?

The growth of the bioeconomy in Ireland is highly possible given the resources available in the agricultural, forestry, and seaweed sectors. Ireland has abundant agricultural resources like grass and manures which can be used for energy production through biogas. Additionally, the forest sector has the capacity to go beyond timber and fire wood if wood’s high-value chemicals and polymers are mined effectively. Seaweed is another resource with huge potential in the Irish bioeconomy and is currently underutilised. With the versatility of seaweed polymers, the seaweed industry can shift from high-volume, low-value, products to speciality high-value products.

What policies/supports are needed to help the bioeconomy grow?

Bioeconomy policies should support and foster regional and rural development, specifically to a more circular and low-emission economy. Traditional practices like dairy farming and seaweed harvesting/cultivation should be given technology options and financial support to make them circular and sustainable whilst increasing the product and market spectrum.  Businesses investing in the bioeconomy should be financially supported, considering the economic, environmental and social dimensions of the technology.

To hear more about this, please join us at the National Bioeconomy Summit in October.  Click on this link to register.