Ohio State Receives $11.6 Million Third Frontier Award To Turn Crops Into Industrial Products

May 12, 2005

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Ohio State University's College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) has received an $11.6 million Third Frontier Project award to create the Ohio BioProducts Innovation Center (OBIC), which will develop chemical conversion technologies to generate industrial products such as lubricants and adhesives from raw materials grown in the state, including corn and soybeans.

The announcement was made May 10 by Ohio Lt. Gov. Bruce Johnson during a visit to The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company in Marysville. Johnson announced a total of seven awards, but chose to highlight the BioProducts Center to demonstrate the Third Frontier Project's impact on agriculture.

"Today we are talking about innovation and the opportunity to work together with Ohio's agricultural industry to develop new products, open new markets for farmers and create good jobs," said Johnson, who also serves as director of the Ohio Department of Development and chair of the Third Frontier Commission. "The Third Frontier doesn't make the other two frontiers, agriculture and manufacturing, obsolete, but strengthens them to help reclaim Ohio's culture of innovation."

CFAES Dean Bobby Moser said capital funds from the Third Frontier award will allow OBIC to build on the strength of two of Ohio's largest industries, agriculture, an $80 billion enterprise, and the chemicals, plastics and rubber materials sector, worth $49 billion.

"I want to thank the Governor's office and the Third Frontier Commission for their recognition of the role agriculture can play in the new economy," Moser said. "These funds will enhance our analytical capacity in genetics so that we can more rapidly and efficiently identify genetic traits in crops needed for the chemical industry to create specialty products, enhancing our economy and providing a renewable source of bio-products. This will make Ohio a global leader in the development of renewable specialty chemicals."

Ohio State partners in the BioProducts Center include the Ohio Soybean Council (OSC) and Battelle Memorial Institute. OSC Chair Amy Davis said the investment in research made by soybean farmers through the check-off program has been invaluable to the creation of OBIC. "Fifteen years ago people made jokes about foam made out of soybeans," she said. "Now we are respected and in demand."

"Battelle is looking forward to supporting the Ohio BioProducts Innovation Center in a collaboration involving agricultural and chemical companies to create cost-effective and differentiated products derived from renewable feed-stocks like soybean oil and corn sugars," said Alex Kawczak, vice president of BioProducts and Nanostructured Materials at Battelle. "These bio-based coatings, adhesives, composites, lubricants and performance compounds will be designed to create value for the agriculture and chemical/plastics industries."

Steve Slack, director of the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) - which is the research arm of CFAES - said OBIC is a unique venture in the country that links genetics, biotechnology, chemical conversion, and the production and commercialization of value-added bio-products.

"I'm please that this award will bring together and leverage research capabilities through the partnership between two outstanding institutions - The Ohio State University and Battelle," Slack pointed out. "I'd also like to recognize the check-off system used by the Ohio Soybean Council to fund research on soybeans, as this funding mechanism and the foresight of the soybean industry gave genesis to the OBIC concept."

High-yield, disease-resistant and high-quality soybean varieties developed by OARDC scientists already generate $191 million in Ohio economic output, create $67 million in income for Ohioans and support 4,030 jobs, according to a recent study of OARDC's economic impact conducted by Battelle. The BioProducts Center - which will have operations on both the Columbus and Wooster campuses of The Ohio State University - will help take these breeding efforts to the next level.

"OBIC's 'cell-to-sell' management plan links Ohio's research and commercial partners to focus academic research on market-based problems identified by business partners, which will ultimately lead to the commercialization of high-value industrial bio-products and manufacturing solutions using Ohio crops," said Stephen Myers, chair of Ohio State's Department of Horticulture and Crop Science. "Combining development of unique germplasms with novel chemical-synthesis technologies, oils, carbohydrates and proteins will be utilized to develop specialty chemicals targeted for use in a range of bio-product applications."

One example of this "cell-to-sell" approach is the partnership between Ohio State and Scotts, Moser said. "This Third Frontier award will make it possible for us to provide Scotts with bio-based solutions for packaging and a coating for fertilizer that allows for slow release of the nutrients and dissolves completely in time," he explained.

Other partners in OBIC are Albemarle Corporation, Archer Daniels Midland Company, Cargill, Cooperative Business Council, Delphi Packard Electric Systems, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Ohio Polymer Strategy Council, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, PolyOne Corporation, Procter & Gamble, Scotts, Sherwin-Williams, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service.

A 10-year, $1.1 billion initiative, the Ohio Third Frontier Project is the state's largest-ever commitment to expand Ohio's high-tech research capabilities and promote start-up companies to create high-paying jobs.

Last December, Gov. Bob Taft awarded OARDC a $1.5 million Third Frontier grant for the creation of a bio-energy research facility to turn various agricultural and food-processing wastes into energy.

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Author(s): 
Mauricio Espinoza
Source(s): 
Bobby Moser