The contents of the key generic course in the Bio4Energy Graduate School, Biorefinery Pilot Research (BPR), have been made considerably sharper in terms of training students in considering each biorefinery pilot or demonstration facility in the Bio4Energy cluster as an innovation system.
Or so it would seem as the second edition of BPR concluded with a final seminar where PhD student researchers in Bio4Energy presented encompassing reports describing and analysing the activities of seven entities which host pilot and demonstration units run by Bio4Energy researchers or, in one case, by its strategic partners.
'We have improved the course compared with the previous year [and] given it a focus on innovation systems. The students have had to work harder and done better. There has been the possibility to learn more', said Sylvia Larsson, BPR course coordinator and an associate professor at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences at Umeå, Sweden.
Biorefinery Pilot Research is designed to introduce students at the PhD level to the hands-on work of developing biorefinery technologies on site at pilot and demonstration facilities which are part of the Bio4Energy research environment. Bio4Energy deals with biochemical and thermochemical conversion of biomass to fuels, chemicals and new materials from woody raw materials and organic waste. It also designs various options for the pre-treatment or pre-processing of biomass by means for instance of catalysis, separation, fractionation or torrefaction.
This introduction mainly takes place on site so that students have the possibility to gain an appreciation of the actual handling of pilot equipment and to have contacts with the engineers and other technicians running the facilities and, by extension, contacts in industry and academia, and at research institutes.
This year's course had 16 students from all over the world. They were tasked not only with taking in the scenery, but also with acting as analysts, finding out about technical solutions and challenges faced by each facility and its owners. The result has been summarised in reports which are part of the students' final examination. The target facilities were the:
- Algae Pilot Plant,Umeå,Sweden;
- Biofuel Technology Centre,Umeå,Sweden;
- Biorefinery Demo Plant,Örnsköldsvik,Sweden;
- SP Energy Technology Centre,Piteå,Sweden;
- Torrefaction Pilot and Demonstration Plants,Umeå&Holmsund,Swedenand the;
- Umeå Plant Science Centre,Umeå,Sweden.
Late 2013 enrolment to the Biorefinery Pilot Research training course was extended to students which are affiliated with other higher learning institutions than those which are members of Bio4Energy. So while most were already members of Bio4Energy, there were also students from Åbo Akademi in Finland, the University of Milano-Bicocca in Italy and Chalmers University of Technology at Gothenburg, Sweden.
'Actually seeing all the different kind of plants and getting connections to the persons at these places, as well as actually meeting other PhD students and getting the connections to them; this is really, really helpful', said Robin Nyström, course participant and a PhD researcher on the Bio4Energy Thermochemical Platform.