The Bioeconomy Institute (BEI) at Iowa State University seeks to advance the use of biorenewable resources for the production of fuels, energy, chemicals, and materials. The Institute will assure Iowa’s prominence in the revolution that is changing the way society obtains its essential sources of energy and carbon.
This revolution will dramatically reduce our dependence on petroleum. Instead of fossil sources of carbon and energy, the bioeconomy will use biomass (including lignocellulose, starches, oils and proteins) as a renewable resource to sustain economic growth and prosperity.
Agriculture will supply renewable energy and carbon to the bioeconomy while engineering will transform these resources into transportation fuels, commodity chemicals, and electric power. This transformation, however, must be done in a manner that meets our present needs without compromising those of future generations.
BEI opens opportunities in Iowa’s burgeoning bioeconomy, where our society looks to agriculture for renewable sources of fuel, energy, chemicals, and materials.
National Prominence in Biofuels and Bioenergy
The Institute builds upon a five-year initiative at ISU that has brought the university to national prominence in the field of biofuels and bioenergy. The establishment of the Institute assure ISU’s continued prominence in this rapidly advancing field. The Bioeconomy Institute — a campuswide effort, launched in 2002, to investigate the use of biorenewable resources as sustainable feedstocks for producing chemicals, fuels, materials, and energy. Under this umbrella, BEI has engaged:
- More than 200 faculty and staff affiliated members
- Some 35 departments in all eight colleges
- Over 25 research centers, institutes, and programs
- Industry and federal agencies to sponsor over $80 million in external funding in the last five years.
Those involved in the Bioeconomy Institute realize that in the process of moving beyond our current dependence on petroleum, the bioeconomy is nothing less than a revolution in the way society will supply itself with essential sources of carbon and energy. Just as petroleum refiners have been inextricably connected to places and cultures where oil was deposited in the earth, the biorefiners of the future will be inextricably connected to agriculture and forestry.
Unlike petroleum drilling, however, biorenewable feedstocks are produced from an ecosystem that needs to be conserved and renewed in order to ensure future production capacity. Therefore, the bioeconomy will require tight linkages between plant breeding, soil fertility, sustainable crop production, biomass transportation and logistics, rural communities, bioprocessing, distribution, and marketing services.
Cohesion and Collaboration
Like many land-grant institutions, Iowa State’s faculty has been engaged for many years in both fundamental and applied research projects related to biorenewable resources and biobased products. What distinguishes ISU is its early recognition that single objective, single investigator approaches to problems in this field have stymied progress toward commercialization of biobased technologies.
The BEI was established to provide cohesion among the diverse efforts in biorenewable resources on campus and to encourage collaboration among departments, colleges, and research units.