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"The future needs circular and bio-based production systems"

CBIO - Aarhus University's Centre for Circular Bioeconomy – has got a new centre leader. Associate Professor Morten Ambye-Jensen has taken over the position from Professor Uffe Jørgensen, who has headed the centre since its establishment in 2017. For almost six years, CBIO has made ground-breaking results in resource management of biomasses and the centre is growing.

Associate Professor Morten Ambye-Jensen in front of the biorefinery at AU Viborg: "I'm sure that CBIO will be able to play an important role in facilitating and communicating the important points in the green transition that take place in Denmark for many years to come," he says. Photo: Lars Kruse.

Morten Ambye-Jensen, Associate Professor at the Department of Biotechnology and Chemical Engineering, is the 1st of April appointed as the new centre leader for CBIO - Aarhus University's Centre for circular bioeconomy - and he has taken over the position from Uffe Jørgensen, Professor at Department of Agroecology.

Since 2017, when CBIO was founded as an interdisciplinary research platform, Uffe Jørgensen has been centre leader for it. Back then there was no similar centre for circular bioeconomy, and it is the only one of its kind in Denmark.

CBIO arose from the bioeconomic’s great idea that biological resources should be exploited better in a circular value cycle, where there would be as little waste as possible; including by creating high-value products of side streams from biomasses. This was to be done across departments and centres at Aarhus University, where they together and in collaboration with national and international companies and organizations were to conduct research in sea and on land that could be used as a part of the green transition.

Highly topical research with impact

"A lot has happened since CBIO was established. Before then, it had been underestimated how large a role the biological resources could – and can – play, for example, in relation to bioenergy and biomaterials. For a long time, we have focused on our Danish and world's leading competencies within wind energy, which is completely fair, but we also have the competencies and potential within the Danish utilization of biomass and, among other things, its derived biogenic CO2, which can be used for new materials or fuels. There was not much interest in these biomaterial potentials in 2017, but there is a great deal of this now," says Uffe Jørgensen and continues:

"There is a lot of focus on the climate and the green transition, and it is therefore important that we have research that can play a role in the commercial development that is under way. We are extremely busy if we are to achieve our targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, while at the same time we want to maintain our standard of living in both materials and mobility. For example, it is difficult to imagine a society where we do not want to be able to travel. So, there is a major task in creating sustainable systems."

Here, almost six years later, CBIO has grown larger, and its foundation is stronger. With research results that have a major impact on the agricultural sector, the food and materials and energy industries, the centre plays a major role in research into the Danish resource management.

CBIO's groundbreaking research projects could not be done without the unique research facilities in AU Viborg, Foulum, which include, among other things, an HTL plant, a biogas plant and a biorefinery.

Unique research facilities

The research facilities are central to CBIO’s research projects, in which researchers work closely with talented technicians who can handle and innovate the machines and thereby help to explore new opportunities for converting biomass.

It was precisely the research facilities that gave a crucial and positive first impression when CBIO’s visions were presented to the centre's advisory board:

"When we had the first meeting in our advisory board, we told them about our visions and plans, where they said that others had presented the same things, so they were interested in how we would be different. It was first when we showed them the facilities where they could see the many different technologies next to each other – the entire research chain gathered on a large scale – the advisory board was blown out of recognition, because they had not seen anything like this," explains Uffe Jørgensen, who emphasizes that Aarhus University can be very proud of its research facilities.

In autumn 2021, CBIO underwent an international evaluation over three days, during which the evaluation committee was given a guided tour of the research facilities in AU Viborg, Foulum. The evaluation is commendable and expresses great appreciation for the high level of interdisciplinary research that CBIO runs. It also describes how CBIO is at the forefront of many topics, which is one of the centre's many strengths.

The circle is increasing with several research areas

In 2023, two research areas have been allocated to CBIO: MAPP Centre at BSS and Center for Quantitative Genetics and Genomics (QGG). So now there are a total of eight areas covering the strands of the circular bioeconomy, spanning the processing of organisms, cultivation of biomass, refining and product development for economics and consumer aspects.

"The two new centres have huge potential for further developing the ongoing interdisciplinary collaboration. CBIO is more than just technical and qualitative analysis work, so getting the consumers included with the MAPP centre is very important. In addition, QGG’s research into the genetics of plants and microorganisms can to a large extent help shape the future of a circular bioeconomy," says Morten Ambye-Jensen, CBIO's new centre leader.

He has been part of CBIO’s steering committee since 2019 and therefore has in-depth knowledge of the centre's work and interests. He leads The Green Biorefining Technologies Group at the Department of Biotechnology and Chemical Engineering, which processes fresh biomass for protein feed and biomaterials, among others.

"CBIO’s foundation is strong and becomes stronger, not because I become a leader, but because the future needs circular and bio-based production systems. I'm sure that CBIO will be able to play an important role in facilitating and communicating the important points in the green transition that take place in Denmark for many years to come," he says, and continues:

"The interdisciplinary ties and results that are created through CBIO will also be important to get into the study programmes at the participating departments, so that CBIO’s work is included in the training of the labour force of the future for green transition in agriculture, food and resource management. Students should be aware of the circular bioeconomy when they have finished their education here, "concludes Morten Ambye-Jensen.

The change of management in CBIO will be marked on the 18th of April at 12 – 15.30 with ‘CBIO Past & Future – Reception and seminar ' in AU Viborg, Foulum.

You can still sign up, but be quick, the deadline is the 13th of April.

Read more about the event here