CHENNAI: The Union government is stepping-up efforts to find an alternative source of efficient and environmentally-friendly fuel with the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) calling for research proposals for producing bio-fuel on a large-scale. The response has been tremendous, according to T Madan Mohan, Adviser, DBT, who spoke to Express on the sidelines of a national conference on ‘Algal Biology and Biotechnology’, jointly organised by the University of Madras and Krishnamurthi Institute of Algology. Mohan said bio-fuel from renewable energy sources like algae is sustainable and has greater applications. The idea is to run at least some government vehicles with bio-fuel as a start.
“We are encouraging start-ups to take the idea forward and the department is open to proposals and independent research. Annually, DBT sanctions projects worth `500 crore for research in biotechnology, including bio-fuel, through the Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC),” Mohan added. “We encourage transitional research and the incubation of start-ups in a university environment and grooming them as future entrepreneurs,” Mohan said adding that so far 1,000 biotechnology firms have been promoted under the BIRAC umbrella.He said there was no shortage of funding for research projects. The official said India has the potential to become the world’s largest bio-economy with the amount of bio-diversity available. “We expect bio-technology to generate a $100 billion business by 2025. This sector will become eminent as its products will bring transformation of the Indian economy by offering solutions to multiple challenges. Biotechnology also includes vaccines. India today is a global player in vaccine development and manufacturing, supplying almost 50 per cent of vaccinations to WHO and UNICEF,” Mohan said.
Even the Indian Army is keen on bio-fuel from algae. Defence Institute of Bio-energy Research (DIBER), in Pithrogarh, situated at a height of 12,000 feet in Uttarakhand, is carrying out research on algal systems to extract bio-fuel, said S Elumalai, from the University of Madras.