US Department of Energy invests big in bioenergy research

Rick Perry, the US Secretary of Energy, has announced $40 million in Department of Energy (DOE) awards for the creation of four DOE Bioenergy Research Centres (BRCs).

Each led by a DOE National Laboratory or a ‘top’ university, the centres are designed to “lay the scientific groundwork for a new bio-based economy that promises to yield a range of important new products and fuels derived directly from non-food biomass," according to a DOE statement.

Initial funding for the four centres will total $40 million for 2018, with five years of funding planned.

“The revolution of modern biology has opened up vast new opportunities for the energy industry to develop and utilise products derived from biomass as a sustainable resource,” said Secretary Perry.  “These centres will accelerate the development of the basic science and technological foundation needed to ensure that American industry and the American public reap the benefits of the new bio-based economy.”

An open competition using outside peer review was used to select the four centres. The Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, led by the University of Wisconsin-Madison in partnership with Michigan State University; the Center for Bioenergy Innovation, led by DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory; the Joint BioEnergy Institute, led by DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; and the Center for Advanced Bioenergy and Bioproducts Innovation, led by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; will receive the DOE funding.

The current awards represent a follow-on phase to the original DOE Bioenergy Research Centers program, established by the Office of Biological and Environmental Research within DOE’s Office of Science in 2007. The next phase will see the centres expand on the previous focus on biofuels to include the development of bio-based chemicals and other bio-based products. 

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