Contributed By Melissa Delekta, MSU Bioeconomy Institute
When Michigan State University accepted the Holland, MI-based Bioeconomy Institute in 2007 as a gift from Pfizer, it took on a $50 million-plus property that was poised to set MSU apart from other universities.
The Institute offers a wide range of services that appeal to both startup and well-established companies. The facility is capable of scale-up and production services, conducting sponsored research and testing, and facilitating business incubation. Lab space is also available for renting and providing educational programming and training.
“We have 30,000 liters of scale up capacity and we use that to scale up processes for small companies. So, for companies that cannot afford that infrastructure, which is a very large expenditure, we are able to bring them to market very quickly,” stated Bill Freckman, Director of Operations, MSU Bioeconomy Institute and who also managed the facility’s operations during his days with Pfizer.
“Our role at Michigan State is not only economic development and helping entrepreneurial businesses develop “green” chemical technologies and green chemistry, but helping small companies survive the challenges of commercialization quickly.”
The Bioeconomy Institute also has the ability to provide unique opportunities to students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.
“Students that weren’t sure about attending grad school, or those who were just not ready, have the opportunity to go on to that level after experiencing a summer here,” Thomas Guarr, Director of Research and Development’s statement on the summer internship program.
This summer the facility was host to ten interns from universities across the state.
Since its inception, the institute has been able to attract out-of-state companies to Michigan, as well as enhance Michigan-based firms. For example, Renmatix is a company that brought research and development projects to the Institute. As the leading producer of affordable cellulosic sugars, Renmatix was recognized as one of ten 2014 New Energy Pioneers by Bloomberg New Energy Finance for its technology's impact on bio-industry.
“The Bioeconomy Institute was essential in helping us continue to scale our process in preparation for commercial deployment,” said Frank Lipiecki, research and development director for Renmatix. Research at the Institute helped fine-tune the proprietary biomass conversion process, which avoids the use of costly consumables and operates with reactions that only take seconds. This contribution is an important step in helping to develop nonfood, plant-based alternatives to petrochemical products.
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