'Biggest change to chemicals industry in decades'

Lux Research rates winners in the biochemicals and biomaterials space, and some of the usual suspects are at the top.
By Ron Kotrba | January 19, 2012

Lux Research has compiled another report on the biorefining industry, “Assessing Innovator Evolution in Renewable Materials and Chemicals,” which “rates the field to pick the winners.”

“A collection of innovative biobased chemicals and materials start-ups—Novamont, Arcadia, Elevance, Amyris, Gevo and Solazyme, among them—is rapidly maturing and attaining scale, promising to hasten the biggest change seen in the global chemicals industry in decades,” Lux states.  

Lux applied its innovation grid to rate 106 startups to see which companies are most likely to prosper in today’s market.

“Green materials have arrived, thanks to innovative start-ups,” said Kalib Kersh, Lux Research Analyst and lead author of the report. “Small technology startups are bringing new technologies for creating new biobased chemicals and materials, and their growth is forcing corporations in the field to take notice.”

Lux analysts positioned companies active in biobased materials and chemicals on the Lux Innovation Grid based on their technical value and business execution—companies that are strong on both axes reach the “dominant” quadrant, the research firm explains. It also assessed each company’s maturity, and provided an overall “Lux Take.”

Among Lux’s conclusions are that synthetic biology is making a big impact. Leading “dominant” companies using synbio include Amyris, Gevo, Solazyme and Codexis, and some “relative newcomers,” as Lux calls them, such as BioAmber, Myriant, and Allylix, also reach the “dominant” quadrant. “The number of high-scoring synthetic biology players points to a strong role for synthetic biology in renewable chemicals and materials for the foreseeable future,” the report indicates. Also, companies dedicated to the thermochemical conversion route are “reaping a similar bounty without bugs,” the firm says. “By creating compounds via more scalable catalytic and conventional chemical methods, thermochemical technologies avoid pitfalls of bioprocessing.” It concludes that the top five “dominant” innovators in this space are Virent, Ensyn, Avantium, Segetis and Elevance, making the field “another one of the strongest in the biobased materials and chemicals space.”

Another finding: algae remain challenging. “Over several decades now, algae startups have failed to deliver, struggling to attain commercial viability,” Lux states. “No company earned an overall ‘positive’ rating from Lux analysts. However, Solix BioSystems differentiates itself with key partnerships and waste utilization,” just reaching the “dominant” quadrant on the Lux Innovation Grid.