During the first-ever Bioeconomy Showcase and Progressive Dinner, Iowa State University faculty members were invited to explore the university’s wealth of on and off-campus bioenergy resources, meet with current leaders of the bioeconomy, and learn about the Iowa Capital Corridor Initiative.
“It’s exciting to bring together so many people from all around campus and show them what kind of opportunities the bioeconomy offers,” said Robert Brown, director of the ISU Bioeconomy Institute.
The informational event allowed for more than 40 faculty members to not only learn about the growing bioenergy and bioscience industry in central Iowa, but also to network and see how their research could tie to the bioeconomy. Participants toured the on-campus Biorenewables Research Laboratory, the off-campus BioCentury Research Farm, and the Iowa Energy Center’s Biomass Energy Conversion (BECON) Facility in Nevada, Iowa.
Faculty members were joined by Prasad Gupte, technology manager for thermochemical conversion at U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Biotechnology Office, who shared his excitement for driving the innovative research forward. “We want to enable the research, assisting people to go from bench scale to commercial scale,” Mr. Gupte said. “By funding the research and scale-up we can generate confidence in the research.” He also introduced potential DOE funding opportunities and initiatives that may be of interest to central Iowa’s bioeconomy.
During the BECON tour, faculty members were introduced to the facility’s role as an innovation hub, open to universities, colleges, community colleges, private sector, and non-profits interested in researching and developing their own bioenergy projects. To highlight such opportunities, William Lee, CEO of Frontline Bioenergy LLC, showed faculty members his company’s pilot-scale, drop-in biofuels research company. Frontline’s pilot-scale reactor is housed at BECON and recently received a $4.2 million DOE grant.
“More than anything, the event showed faculty how they could be a part of the process,” said Mark Petri, director of the Iowa Energy Center. “They can have an important role in the raw research that feeds the development and innovation of a successful bioeconomy.”