Developing new platform chemicals: what is required to a new biobased molecule to become a platform in the bioeconomy?
This paper proposes a framework with six dimensions that can be useful to evaluate the potential and the stage of a bio-based platform chemical. The framework considers technological and strategic challenges to be filled by a company that intend to lead a platform based on a bio-based chemical. A platform chemical should be an intermediate molecule, with a structure able to generate a number of derivatives, produced at a competitive cost, capable to offer the exploitation of scale and scope economies, inserted in a complete innovation ecosystem able to create value and with governance mechanisms that are capable to coordinate the innovation process and facilitate the value capture by the focal company leading the platform, in our case the producer of the platform molecule. Based on these six dimensions, three potential platform chemicals – succinic acid, butanol and farnecene - were compared and discussed. It is possible to identify important differences concerning the technological dimensions and the strategic dimensions as well. Two of the molecules – farnesene and succinic acid – are adherent to most of the conditions required to structuring a platform chemical. However, the innovation ecosystem is not complete and the governance mechanisms are still under development, not being clear if they will be capable to allow a favorable position to value capture by the platform leader. Butanol structuring as a platform do not seem promising. The molecule potential is apparently not high and the strategic initiatives are in general not focused on the innovation ecosystem structuring.