Survey shows Calif. industrial biotech sector a real job engine

| October 18, 2011

Genencor CEO Tjerk de Ruiter believes the creation of a biobased economy depends on four components: cultivating a steady supply of renewable feedstock, developing infrastructure at farm scale all the way to factory scale, building biorefineries, and developing distribution channels of advanced biofuels and biobased products. All that can happen, he explained during his address to the California Industrial Biotechnology Conference, if the combination of public, private and governmental policies work in unison.

“We are making progress,” he said, but “the challenge ahead of us is to work as a collective group to take discoveries from pilot projects to commercialization faster. Working toward establishing a biobased economy will help us be better prepared to address society’s biggest challenges.”

Part of Genencor’s plans at helping the biobased economy progress revolve around partnering projects like that of GNext, an open-innovation project that allows companies or project developers within the bioenergy landscape to partner with and take advantage of Genencor’s experience. And those partnerships may not be hard to form, given the results of a recent survey conducted by BayBio, a biotechnology association out of California.

Over the past five years, the survey showed the biotech sector in California has increased by an astounding 632 percent; an industry that BayBio said will continue to develop through the growth of sustainable fuel sources, feedstock, enzymes and green industrial chemicals. The full survey, which is available at, included a number of intriguing facts including:  

-Among the 15 companies that reported having at least one employee in 2006, each one reported an increase of 75 percent.

-Of the 18 companies that reported no employees in 2006, those companies now account for a total of 3,254 jobs.

-While 78 percent of the companies that completed the survey have their headquarters in California, only 45 percent have their pilot facilities in the state, and even fewer have their commercial facilities in the state.

-Hiring for the industrial biotechnology industry is centered on chemists, molecular and cell biologists, fermentation specialists, and chemical engineers.

The survey also showed that the industry will soon be in need of workers with hands-on, commercial scale-up experience in chemical processing. “It’s evident that the California industrial biotechnology sector is a real job engine and we need competitive policies that will allow our state to grow and retain these companies,” said Gail Maderis, president and CEO of BayBio.