UK-India collaboration successfully tackles industrial waste from sugarcane processing in India
Scientists in the UK and India have successfully come together to take a major by-product of the sugarcane industry and turn it into the valuable bio-based chemical, citric acid. This £1.8 million project, sponsored by the Newton Bhabha Fund, brought together academics along with UK and Indian companies to work in partnership to reduce industrial waste and generate innovation in industrial biotechnology.
Citric Acid from sugarcane waste
The consortium included Indian partners: the International Centre for Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology and Natems Sugar Ltd. UK partners were the University of York, the Biorenewables Development Centre, Jesmond Engineering, Prozomix and Wilson Bio-Chemical.
The Newton-Bhabha Fund is a programme funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK, both part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), as well as the Department for Biotechnology (DBT) India.
Addressing a global issue
India is the world’s second largest producer of sugar, and the industry is one of the largest rural employers. With all this productivity comes significant industrial waste in the form of bagasse – the fibrous material left after crushing the sugarcane plant. This biomass is currently used to power the sugar factories. However this process is inefficient and does not use all of the available bagasse.
This collaboration has had a positive impact for all the partners involved. In particular, it has allowed the academic researchers to understand the project from a commercial perspective.
Dr Deborah Rathbone, Bioscience Innovation Team Leader, Biorenewables Development Centre said; We have shown in this project that we can use the sugars from this waste product to produce citric acid. This versatile chemical has applications in a number of different sectors, such as food, pharmaceutical, cosmetics and so on, because it’s generally regarded as safe and a material that can be eaten.
The journey towards commercialisation
During this four year project, the partners have proved that citric acid can be produced from biomass such as bagasse. To assess the economic potential of this process, the next step is to attract further investment to carry out processing trials at 100L scale.
Dr Ramnath Nandakumar, Managing Director, Natems Sugars added; We now want to take the project to the next step in terms of scale up and commercialisation. If this is successful, Natems’ ultimate goal would be to build a factory to run this process which would be the first of this kind, both in the world and in India.
To find out more about the steps involved to develop citric acid and hear from the partners involved, watch the short video.
£1.8 million project
UK & Indian Partnership
Valorisation of sugarcane waste
Notes to editors:
About the Newton Bhabha Fund: The Newton-Bhabha Fund is a high-profile programme funded by The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK, both part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), as well as the Department for Biotechnology (DBT) India. The programme supported collaborative UK-India research programmes which focus on critical socio-economic challenges relevant to international development. http://www.newtonfund.ac.uk/about/about-partnering-countries/India/