To be successful and bring in break-through ideas in this field there is a predominant requirement of scientific expertise, particularly biotech expertise. The real challenges facing the industry are scientific in nature; hence, fundamental and applied research expertise are important ingredients a start up should bring with it.
This article has been adapted from the Oilgae newsletter written by the co-founder of Oilgae – Narsi Santhanam ; it provides very useful insights on the areas where scientific expertise is required.
Growing algae for fuel, let me assure you, is not a child’s play.
For instance, a company in the US namely Live Fuels is into the algae fuel business with a national alliance of labs and scientists dedicated to transforming algae into biocrude. The company recognized that the key challenge algae fuels face is scientific in nature and therefore focused on forming a strong alliance with research organizations and scientific talent across the US. They have engaged leading experts in algae, aquaculture, biochemistry and business. Each of these members brings expertise crucial in solving the challenges to design and scale an algae production system.
Narsi says – ” I think the LiveFuels way is the way to go. On the other hand, I have come across some aspiring teams in this field filled with management experts who talk about how they can assist in mergers and acquisitions and core competence. Let me tell you: these guys are not needed for a start up in the beginning. Not only do these management types of guys cost a lot of money, their talent is absolutely not required in the initial stages” .
A company will require scientific expertise in both the early phases- pilot and commercial phase. During the pilot phase, an ideal team will primarily comprise scientific and engineering talent, with a small team for business partnerships and strategy (90% scientific, 10% everything else). While a successful full-scale commercial team will likely have 60% -Scientific & Engineering talent. With time, as the business expands, one can expect the overall % of scientific & engineering talent to come down as the challenge comprises more of business development and commercialization challenges and less of scientific breakthroughs.
Therefore, most of the talent required will be related to the biology and biotechnology domains. Some of the key expertise required for algae fuel ventures, based on a study of the leading companies in this field are as follows:
Please note that each of these disciplines has something in common with many other disciplines in the list, and hence it is possible that some of the scientific experts could have expertise in more than one area.
• Algal Biology / Algal Metabolism
• Bioreactor Design & Testing
• Biotechnology & Bio-engineering
• Cellular Physiology & Biology
• Genetic Engineering
• Lipid Chemistry
• Marine Phycology
• Molecular Biology
• Plant Biochemistry.
Based on the end products and the processes you are considering, you will require a subset of talents mentioned above.
Source – Oilgae Newsletter
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