Minister of State for Universities and Science David Willetts visits TMO

Surrey, UNITED KINGDOM – July 30, 2012 The Rt Hon David Willetts MP, Minister of State for Universities and Science recognised and acclaimed TMO Renewables (‘TMO’) as a leader in its field at a visit to the TMO research facility and operational ethanol process plant at Dunsfold in Surrey on 13 July 2012. He further described TMO as a tangible example of UK success within the global cleantech sector and stated that it was essential for the government to create the right climate to nurture companies like TMO and facilitate their continuing delivery of UK market leading technology and resultant commercial success.
 At the plant the Minister met David Weaver, TMO’s new CEO, who showed him TMO’s operational Process Demonstration Unit (‘PDU’). The UK’s first cellulosic demonstration facility, the PDU has to date been used to conduct feasibility studies on a wide range of feedstocks on a contract basis to determine the optimal process.

The visit was the Minister’s opportunity to launch the UK’s Synthetic Biology Roadmap. This report will provide a framework for UK Universities and companies like TMO to develop, access and commercially exploit the considerable talent and potential that synthetic biology approaches to process development can provide.  In this report TMO was featured and held up as a prominent example of a UK company delivering commercial success out of a synthetic biology approach.

TMO also took the visit as the opportunity to announce its intention of producing second generation bioethanol for commercial sale at their PDU from Q1 2013 in addition to continuing its feasibility work for customers. An initial production of 50,000 litres per month is expected, however this may increase within the year.

At the forefront of producing high value clean energy solutions at low cost from low value waste, TMO has over the last ten years developed processes that can convert household and agricultural wastes into a variety of high value energy products including bioethanol.  The company has a growing international reputation with customers and collaborators inChina, Brazil andRussia and is recognised as a major global disruptive technology provider.

Innovation is at the very core of TMO’s journey to perfecting second generation bioethanol production and as such the company has developed a number of commercially available products. One example of these is The “Argonaut Process”: a pre treatment solution that enables anaerobic digestion plants (based on MSW or organic derived material) to significantly increase efficiency, thus increasing revenues from energy production.

The arrival of new CEO David Weaver in May 2012, formerly Managing Director in Europe for British Petroleum (BP) Gas Power and Renewables, has heralded a new examination of the progress the company has made on many fronts as well as a process of identifying how TMO can maximise the commercial outcome of its decade of innovation.

David Weaver, CEO of TMO said, “I am delighted to welcome the Minister to our facility. We are honoured by this recognition of the progress TMO has made in the past and are delighted to be able to share our latest plan to produce second generation ethanol for commercial sale while continuing our work for industry customers. I look forward to giving greater detail at a later date on the many other ways we can realise the value created in our ten years of scientific excellence.”

The Rt Hon David Willetts MP, Minister of State for Universities and Science, said, “Companies like TMO are very important in the development of the UK knowledge-based bioeconomy. Academic and industrial collaboration have shown great value in delivering TMO’s commercial success to date, both in terms of innovative processes and products, but also in terms of delivering well trained personnel. I wish them every success in their continued innovation and corporate development.”

Commenting on TMO’s success, Professor Douglas Kell, Chief Executive of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, said, “TMO is in many ways a model of how a novel idea can become a game-changing reality. BBSRC has provided TMO with long-term support through a number of initiatives and programmes, from one-to-one PhD studentships to forging academic and industry collaborations and it is great to see the impact of these investments. From science that began in the 1970s we have seen the development of this exciting research into a company with major industry force that attracts inward investment for theUK.”