York’s contribution to international biofuel research is recognised by Brazil.

Brazil’s National Laboratory of Science and Technology of Bioethanol (CTBE) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Biorenewables Development Centre (BDC), based in York. Brazil is the world’s largest producer of ethanol extracted from sugar cane and has pioneered its use as a motor fuel. This agreement recognises the international importance of biofuel expertise at the BDC and in the plant biology and green chemistry research groups at the University of York.

Dr Joe Ross, director of the Biorenewables Development Centre, says: “To be recognised in this way, by a world leader in bioethanol production, is a tremendous endorsement for our biofuel capabilities and proof of our international impact in this field.”

Biofuels offer an alternative to dwindling fossil fuels and can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, there is concern that they compete for agricultural land with food crops. Bioethanol production from sugarcane is relatively inefficient, extracting only around a third of the crop’s sugars. For the past five years, plant biologists, geneticists and green chemists from across Europe have been working with CTBE experts on sugarcane breeding and bioethanol production, in a research project led by the University of York. Their aim has been to improve the efficiency of bioethanol processing from plant material, so that less land is used in its production.

More recently, the BDC has been building on this research by using its demonstration-scale processing facilities to test new energy crop varieties and new extraction methods. The BDC has now signed an MOU with CTBE to further cooperate on research and development related to bio-based fuels and chemicals.

Professor Simon McQueen Mason, director of the Centre for Novel Agricultural Products at the University of York, says: “This continuing collaboration between the foremost European and Brazilian researchers in the sector paves the way for a new generation of biofuels that are both cost-competitive and environmentally sustainable.

BioVale is a new initiative to develop and promote Yorkshire and the Humber as an internationally recognised centre for the bio-based economy. BioVale helped to arrange the MOU between the BDC and CTBE. Professor Deborah Smith OBE, Chair of BioVale’s steering group, says: “This is another example of the world-class capabilities of the region in developing bio-based products. The Yorkshire and the Humber region is gaining an international reputation as a centre of innovation for the bioeconomy.”


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