Biobased Products: Building Blocks of the Future
The aspiration of the Sun Grant Initiative is to improve the regional economy with biobased products as a significant of the industrial base. The founding principles are to develop biobased products, many of them with industrial applications, and concurrently stimulate renewed economic activity particularly in rural areas. These biobased products will include liquid fuels, lubricants, plastics, building materials, nutraceuticals, pharmaceuticals, industrial enzymes, monomers, polymers, and many other items. Advances in biological sciences combined with continuing developments in processing engineering will make this possible.
There are a number of strong, interdependent forces driving the search for alternate ways to address America's energy needs and development of a biobased economy for the United States. The most important forces include concerns regarding the amount of world petroleum reserves, energy self-sufficiency, preservation of environmental quality, utilization of co-/by-products, economic development in rural areas, use of underutilized productivity potential in agriculture, use of U.S. capabilities in biological sciences including molecular biology, and use of technical capabilities to convert materials to products.
The Sun Grant Initiative was proposed to be established in five regions, with coordination in each of the regions through a designated land-grant university. Oklahoma State University, located in the south central region, was asked to serve as the coordinating institution for the consortium.
Many of the initial consortium activities will focus on a number of base or underlying activities. These may include bioprocessing technologies and associated raw material production and procurement, development, and transportation systems. Such technologies will draw on existing knowledge, developing new information, and creating new systems. Technologies such as chemical hydrolysis, extraction, fermentation, gasification, and microbial digestion will play a role in the development of many different marketable products from a variety of beginning materials.
The Sun Grant Initiative is an activity that will enlist the resources of the nation's land-grant universities in helping push the biobased economy to reality. Partnerships with private sector entities; foundations; other educational institutions; local, state, and federal government; and other organizations will be essential.