Iowa is the bioprocessing capital of the world.
This is a fact I recognized quickly when I assumed the role of Executive Director of the Iowa Biotechnology Association in 2014.
In my second month of work, I attended the Biotechnology Innovation Organization's (BIO) World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology in Philadelphia. After enjoying a full three days of excellent content covering renewable biochemical production, green products and bioprocessing, I asked myself, "Why wouldn't Iowa host this event?"
More than 1,200 bioscience businesses currently operate in the state with positions that pay an average annual salary of $67,000-plus. Our state serves as a center of excellence in the three key industry sectors of food and agriculture; industrial and environment products; and human and animal health. As a Midwest state, Iowa's leadership is sometimes overlooked in this arena. We are known for our crops, but what many don't realize is that Iowa is the nation's second largest source of biomass and home to more than 50 bioprocessing facilities. All of the industry's bioprocessing leaders – ADM, Cargill, POET, DSM and more -- have significant "footprints" in our state.
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) released a roadmap for bioscience growth in December 2017. It quantified Iowa's prominence in the space and identified four platforms for the future of biosciences development in the state, including the area of bio-based chemicals. Iowa also has a research activities credit that has helped biosciences companies further innovation and a Renewable Chemical Production Tax Credit, which the U.S. Department of Agriculture has called the strongest state incentive for the bio-based chemical industry. You can learn more about Iowa's biosciences industry and development road map here.
You can see why it made perfect sense to those of us in Iowa and in the biosciences industry when earlier this year, BIO announced that the July 2019 World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology would be held in Des Moines. The BIO event annually attracts about 1,000 industry executives, investors, policy makers and academics from around the globe for educational sessions, vendor pavilion and popular one-on-one partnering. Iowa is looking forward to showcasing our industrial biotechnology infrastructure and innovation and welcoming attendees to U.S. News & World Report's No. 1 state.
There are skeptics, though. Those who think Iowa is out of the way or don't appreciate the opportunity to get close to the R&D and value chain that supplies this industry. We had the chance to help attendees at the 2018 BIO World Congress last month in Philadelphia see what Iowa is like, though. And to remind them "why Iowa" with our presentation of the George Washington Carver award, which is named after a well-known botanist and innovator who studied at Iowa State University.
Hosting BIO World Congress in Iowa provides the occasion for attendees to explore all aspects of the industrial biotechnology supply chain. We anticipate the participants being able to explore all levels of research and development, feedstock growth, production, distribution and end-user delivery – a unique 360-view that few other places could deliver.
If you are interested in learning more about biosciences in Iowa, visit IEDA's website or make plans now to attend the 2019 BIO World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology in Iowa. More information about the conference, including registration details, are available on the BIO website.
Joe Hrdlicka is the executive director of the Iowa Biotechnology Association.