Collaboration, innovation, applied research - Bioeconomy in France: Insights from Guillaume Le Cloirec, commercial engineer at PIVERT

Guillaume Le Cloirec has a degree in chemistry from the engineering school in Rennes, and very early on became interested in biotechnologies and the valorisation of by-products, with the goal of combining chemistry and the environment to help move away from petro-sourced products and towards bio-sourced products. This led to his first professional experience at DEINOV, a French biotechnology company, in the Down Stream Process.

He joined PIVERT 4 years ago as project manager and is now in charge of business development.

PIVERT supports, among others, food companies in the development and optimisation of their processes, particularly at pilot scale, to optimise their chances of success in the transition from proof of concept in the laboratory to industrialisation.

What is the state of applied R&D activities and technology transfer in Bioeconomy?

For Guillaume, the major issue related to R&D in the bioeconomy is correctly managing the transition from an experimental stage in a laboratory to a pilot stage. This can be a major cause of promising projects getting off track, and threaten their ability to create a return on investment for R&D projects.

Indeed, laboratory-based R&D can sometimes yield exciting results, but end up somewhat disconnected from the reality of industrial issues and pilot constraints.

“One of the challenges is to work step by step, in particular to manage feasibility and compatibility on a pilot scale. This is where structures like PIVERT come into their own to guide companies and save them time. You can spend 2 years developing a great process, only for everything to slow down at the end of the day because the process isn't adapted to pilot-scale constraints. The way things work is not the same in laboratory R&D as it is in pilot R&D and industrialisation, where we talk about feasibility, safety, material and system compatibility, etc. Companies like PIVERT are able to manage equipment on the right scale, and help small companies avoid having to buy the equipment outright.”

Collaboration in the bioeconomy – the challenge of a diversity of players

For Guillaume, the complexity of collaborating in the bioeconomy sector lies in the fact that not all the players speak the same language, hence the importance of using intermediary structures to correlate, transfer, simplify and decipher each other's languages.

“Start-ups and academic centres sometimes have ideas that can revolutionise the bioeconomy, but it's vital to keep these intermediaries on board as we move towards industrialisation to ensure that the investments made upstream are not wiped out.”

In his view, these collaborations are all the more important because it is impossible to have all the expertise and equipment on one site.
Public authorities also have a role to play through subsidies and fund-raising, which are vital, particularly at the start of a project.
He considers that public authorities can also help to raise the profile of these projects and increase the network of connections, which is extremely important if you want to get your name out there and learn how to grow your business.

The recent Alliance between Iterg, Improve and PIVERT enables to combine expertise in fermentation, alternative proteins, oils & fats to bring solutions to the customer and help accelerate the industrialization of their processes.

R&D management for corporations – do large companies need to outsource?

Guillaume observes that while smaller companies need help to develop pilot projects, large companies generally have their own R&D departments, and most of the time they also have their own pilot sites, so they are fairly autonomous. They manage to work on their processes and develop them inhouse.

“However, as we see from time to time with some of them, there is still a need to outsource and use subcontractors for a specific need. They have the budget but not necessarily the human resources to match,” explains Guillaume. This means that even large companies have an interest in maintaining an open innovation approach in their R&D, to maintain agility in getting their projects to an operational stage as fast as possible.

The final word Is yours

According to Guillaume, he is optimistic that the process of deploying the bioeconomy is well underway in France, with more and more players moving towards bio-based products. However, “financing these initiatives remains a major challenge,” he concludes. Hence the interest of projects like ShapingBio to provide guidance for coordinating funding opportunities across countries and across industry sectors.



Collaboration, innovation, applied research - Bioeconomy in France: Insights from Guillaume Le Cloirec, commercial engineer at PIVERT