Industrial biotechnology is also known as white biotechnology. It is applied to industrial processes, such as the design of microorganisms to produce a chemical product or the use of enzymes as industrial catalysts. It is also applied in the textile industry, in the creation of new materials like biodegradable plastics, and in the production of bio-fuels.
The main objective is the creation of easily degradable products that use less energy and produce less waste during their production. White biotechnology tends to consume fewer resources than the traditional processes used to make industrial goods.
In Chile, some of the valuable contributions that it offers the world range from sun screens to water purification systems, based on microorganisms and vegetation in Antarctica. Chile has had three permanent bases on the frozen continent since 1947.
The forestry and winemaking sectors are areas where successful innovations have been proven. One example is the system to detect viruses in grapes, which was developed by the 2002 National Applied Science and Technology Prize winner Dr. Pablo Valenzuela. His important research consists in the sequencing of the genomes of all the pathogenic microorganisms and that has made an immense contribution to the national winemaking industry, which registered exports of 107 million liters sent abroad in the first quarter of 2009, for US$ 313 million.
In the forestry sector, which sold products worth US$ 1,336 million abroad, very important contributions have been made by the University of Concepción and its Technology Development Unit (UDT) in particular. These innovations include work on the development of bio fuels.
Agricultural and forestry waste are the materials that the team led by Dr. Alex Berg intends to transform into bioethanol or biodiesel, thanks to the widespread availability of forestry biomass.
Another of their star products is a material that is very much in demand in the fishing industry, which mixes sawdust with melted or injected plastic, and they have also fused wood and polylactic acid to develop biodegradable plastic and very resistant petrified woods.