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Biomaterials Forum Discusses the Future of New Biobased Products as an Opportunity for Costa Rican Investment

Biomaterials Forum Discusses the Future of New Biobased Products as an Opportunity for Costa Rican Investment

  • Since 2021, CINDE and BID LAB, the Inter-American Development Bank’s laboratory, have implemented the Biomaterials Hub project to promote an ecosystem of biomaterials innovations, powered by a conviction that the country has great potential.
  • The event was attended by more than 150 people, including those in academia, researchers, and representing companies, in order to explore opportunities for collaboration.
San José, Costa Rica. August 29, 2023. CINDE's Biomaterials Hub, in coordination with the National University of Costa Rica (UNA, for its acronym in Spanish), Texas Tech University, the National Nanotechnology Laboratory (LANOTEC) and the IDB Lab, held the first Biomaterials congress – "A Biologically Based Future" – to raise awareness and discuss the potential of organic biomaterials and biodiversity to promote new products that will revolutionize the economy and reaffirm Costa Rica's leadership in sustainability.

National and international experts participated in the event, where they discussed the potential for developing new solutions based on organic materials that replace petroleum derivatives and in which our country could find either new market niches or opportunities for local ventures and new foreign direct investment in Costa Rica.

“Since 2021, CINDE and the IDB LAB – the Inter-American Development Bank’s laboratory – have implemented a project that promotes an ecosystem of innovation in the field of biomaterials. We are fully convinced of Costa Rica’s great potential to create nature-based solutions and in our ability to leverage our biodiversity; our tradition of sustainability, which distinguishes us the world over; and the country's commitment to education," stated Marianela Urgellés, the Managing Director of CINDE.

She added: “Our country is home to 5.1% of the world's biodiversity. This natural wealth is the country’s secret to positioning itself as the new headquarters for biological materials that will revolutionize industries. This ‘Biomaterials Hub’ represents an opportunity for researchers and companies to meet, share their knowledge, and explore opportunities for collaboration.”

The National University is a strategic partner in CINDE’s Biomaterials Hub, supporting research related to the use of biomass (the use of organic matter for multiple purposes), biorefinery (biomass processing for energy production), and other lines of research related to the bioeconomy.

“UNA has the potential to be one of the leading Latin American universities in the field of biomaterials, thus allowing us to unite different sectors to power projects that lead Costa Rica into new research areas that have promising markets that demand solutions. We are pleased that organizations such as CINDE, IDB Lab, and Texas Tech University have placed their trust in our work and in contributions from the academic sector to establish this network of biomaterials that offers great potential for the country’s development," stated Marianela Rojas, Associate Rector of the National University (UNA).

Costa Rican Opportunities in Biomaterials

This 2023 forum discussed projects based on biodesign, which integrates organisms or living systems as essential components of either the products or the design processes – for example, via use of mushrooms, pineapple, corn starch, or cassava starch.

One of the presented cases during the event was that of Nicoverde, a company created in Costa Rica and funded through Italian capital. Nicoverde exports various pineapple-based products, mainly to the European market.

“This forum is the ideal space to share experiences and network in such a way that allows us to continue developing as a company. We transform pineapple waste into biomaterials, such as biomass from which textiles can be obtained, or nutritional supplements, such as edible mushrooms that undergo processes to become the well-known "meat of the future," due to their high nutritional value. There are also other treatments, thanks to pineapple bromerin, with which meats are softened and solutions to digestive problems are obtained,” indicated Jorge Sánchez, the General Manager of Nicoverde.

CINDE's Biomaterials Hub is rooted in four strategic pillars, which are: 

1. Raise awareness regarding the benefits and possible applications of biomaterials.
2. Promote further applied research.
3. Translate innovative research into products and solutions that benefit society, and avoid allowing ideas to remain only within the realm of academia.
4. Support startups and bring their innovations to market.

“Entrepreneurs are visionaries who take risks and turn ideas into tangible realities. We want to provide these entrepreneurs with a supportive environment where they can bring their biomaterials innovations to market. We are sowing the seeds of the future, where startups in biomaterials will prosper and contribute to the economy, sustainability, and job creation,” concluded Urgellés.

For more than 40 years, the Costa Rican Investment Advisory  Agency (CINDE) has attracted foreign direct investment to the country. Throughout its history, CINDE has provided support to more than 400 multinational companies established in Costa Rica, in diverse industries including manufacturing, services, life sciences, and tourism infrastructure. A private, non-political organization declared of national interest, the agency has since 2017 – and now, for five consecutive years – been listed by the International Trade Center (ITC) as the best national investment attraction agency in the world.