Developing new platform chemicals: what is required for a new bio-based molecule to become a platform chemical in the bioeconomy?
This paper proposes a framework with six dimensions that can be useful for evaluating the potential and the current stage of a bio-based platform chemical. The framework considers the technological and strategic challenges to be fulfilled by a company that intends 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, that is produced at a competitive cost, capable of allowing exploitation of the scale and scope economies, and inserted within a complete innovation ecosystem that is able to create value with governance mechanisms that are capable of allowing coordination of the innovation process and facilitation of 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 farnesene – are 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 – adhere to most of the conditions required to structure a platform chemical. However, the innovation ecosystem is not complete and the governance mechanisms are still under development, so it is not clear if they will be capable of allowing a favorable position for value capture by the platform leader. Butanol structuring for a platform does not seem promising. The potential of the molecule is apparently not high and the strategic initiatives are in general not focused on innovation ecosystem structuring.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Bio-resources: feeding a sustainable chemical industry