Experts call for comprehensive research to exploit enormous potential of phytoextracts

The experts call for dedicated public funding to support the establishment of interdisciplinary activities and joint research initiatives. They point out the enormous potential for new and innovative products for Europes’s economic and ecologic future.

The publication includes a market overview and lists current issues the phytoextract markets are facing such as regulatory changes, but also climate change and its implications for the access to natural raw materials. A SWOT-analysis on the challenges for phytoextracts and plant-based natural compounds provides the background for the formulation of research targets in the fields of raw materials, disintegration and pre-treatment, extraction, process development and modeling as well as formulation and packaging. These targets are merged in a comprehensive roadmap.

The global markets for phytoextracts are constantly growing. Applications range from food and pharmaceuticals to the agrochemical market. With an estimated worldwide trade volude of about 1 Trillion US$ for plant extracts in 2003/2004 and growth rates as high as 15 %, phytoextracts represent a tremendous economic opportunity. High consumer acceptance and the potential for sustainable manufacturing strengthen the case for plant-based solutions. Research in this field requires the close cooperation of biologists, pharmacists, engineers and chemists. Interdisciplinary exchange in the field, however, is scarce, and many research activities focus on either materials or technologies, leaving the interdependencies along the value chain aside.

The sub-division “Phytoextracts – Products and Processes” in ProcessNet – a joint initiative of DECHEMA and VDI – and a newly founded ESBES sub-group on the European level aim at bridging these gaps. While the previous position paper published in 2012 focused on Germany, the scope of the new publication includes the European level. The expert groups stress the necessary interdisciplinary approach, covering the value chain from botany, cultivation, harvest, green extraction, through product development and chemical engineering driven manufacturing with the corresponding analytics.

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