Volga | Technology & innovation

Global fertilizer producer takes stock in Russian biocatalyst

13 May '21
It all started with the Soviet program, within the framework of which a branch of the All-Union Research Institute of Genetics and Selection of Microorganisms appeared in Saratov. The organization of the branch was entrusted to Sergey Voronin, who, as it turned out later, managed to successfully combine the qualities of a manager and a scientist.

The Saratov branch managed to create a new technology for producing acrylamide, which serves as a raw material for polyacrylamide used in oil production, water treatment, and in many other areas. The quiet revolution in Saratov marked the beginning of a new era in acrylamide production - without sulfuric acid, high temperatures and environmental destruction. After all, the Saratov scientists have managed to breed a strain of microorganisms that make it possible to obtain the desired monomer at room temperature in an environmentally friendly way.

Despite the general collapse that occurred in the 90s, even the government of the new Russia noted a unique find - in 1995, Voronin and his team, being employees of the Institute of Biocatalysis (originated on the basis of the Saratov branch of the All-Union Research Institute of Genetics and Selection of Microorganisms) received the State Prize for biotechnological method of obtaining acrylamide.

But a year before that, state funding for the institute had completely stopped, and the team of scientists realized that they would have to survive on their own. Fortunately, the technology was saved and preserved as intellectual property.

This allowed the newborn Bioamid CJSC in the future to successfully conquer international markets, because scientists from France, England, Germany tried to optimize the method of obtaining acrylamide, but luck smiled only on Saratov residents and scientists from Japan.

The production of monomer and its products was launched in Perm, at a joint Russian-American venture, and a license for biocatalyst strains was bought by a South Korean company, and a license for a method for producing acrylamide was purchased by a German company.

With the funds received, scientists purchased a building, purchased equipment, and there is still left to finance new developments.

Today Bioamid is the only supplier of biocatalyst for acrylamide production in Russia. It was this new development that allowed innovators to receive the second State Prize in Science and Technology.

The main foreign consumer of the biocatalyst is the Kemira concern (Finland), which is best known as a producer of fertilizers. However, it also has an acrylamide facility located at sites in Italy, the US and Germany, and was joined in 2017 by a site in the UK. Accordingly, the export of the biocatalyst also increased, which allowed Bioamid to go abroad in terms of the volume of export of its products in the amount of 100 million rubles a year.

In 2017, Sergey Voronin's company entered the top 10 of the TechUspekh rating, which includes high-tech fast-growing companies. In addition to support from Skolkovo, the innovator also received a subsidy from the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation, which made it possible to launch work on the production of industrial batches of high-quality feed enzyme preparations.

By the end of the same year, Bioamid doubled the volume of sales of its products, moreover, about 75% of the product portfolio was exported, and was assessed by foreign partners as world-class innovations.

But despite the fact that Voronin's products have no analogues in terms of price-quality ratio, their way to the market is not easy. At the same time, even in spite of the crisis, the products of a small Saratov company are gaining more and more consumers.
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