Market Field of Application and Currently Available Products

While biotechnology may give the impression of being a new and exciting branch of technological innovation, it has in fact encompassed continuous development throughout the ages. Few people, for example, would consider beer brewing or bread baking as marvels of biotechnology. Regardless, technological progress has recently achieved several key breakthroughs and with an increased frequency. This has presented numerous opportunities for the competitive and sustainable production of chemicals, materials and fuels derived from or synthesized with the help of biological systems. The total global biotechnology market in 2006 reached a value of approximately 125 bn€ and is expected to increase to 250 bn€ by 2011 [13]. As a field of study it has branched into individual niche categories. Depending on definition criteria, there are either 4 or 7 fields of biotechnology, which have been assigned a color label presented in Table 12.4.

Table 12.4 Overview of biotechnological fields (market size in billion €).



Classical Products

Recent products or developments

Market Size



Penicillin, Aspirin

Stem cells, tissue engineering, recombinant mechanisms, etc.




Microbial waste Water treatment

Extremophiles, bioremediation, waste material use, etc.



Food production

Fertilizers, Pesticides

Functional ingredients, plant genomics, gene expression, etc.




Protease Enzymes

Cell signaling, biomarkers, targeted proteases, etc.



Systems biology

Biochemical pathways

Regulatory and transcriptional networks, gene metabolism, etc.




Bioreactors, Fermentation

Downstream processing, recovery, up-scaling, etc.



Industrial biotechnology

Alcohol, cheese, detergents, soap

Biomaterials, biocatalysis, biofuels, biorefineries, etc.


Data source: internal estimates.

Data source: internal estimates.

White biotechnology is the branch devoted to the replacement of petroleum-based processes with bio-based processes that not only (partly) use renewable resources, but have a large-scale reduction potential in CO2 emissions. Industrial biotechnology is already quite substantial with global sales estimated at 30-35 bn€ in 2009 and an expected annual growth rate of 5.1%. The largest growth potential, at 12.6% per year, is the subcategory of platform biochemicals; currently accounting for 1.9 bn€ global sales. Many industrial biotechnological chemical products are emerging as an economically and ecologically competitive option against the traditional products of the petrochemical industry (examples are shown in Section 12.3.2). In the realm of CO2 mitigation potential, it is this white branch of biotechnology that presents the greatest potential.

It should be noted that while red biotechnology is approaching a market size of 100 bn€ , considering the small quantity of active ingredients the market volume is constrained to the niche 'kton' range. White biotechnology on the other hand is geared towards the commodity market in the high volume ' Mton' range but at lower relative sales per product. The market volume is already approaching 100 Mton. Due to these product volume sizes and projected growth rates, the field of white biotechnology can significantly contribute to the CO2-emissions savings.

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