Partners in Innovation – Vital


In response to challenges from the private sector and the state, two universities in South Dakota have come together to create an innovative public-private partnership that will combine research and commercialization for the bioproducts sector.

The POET Bioproducts Institute will be a 45,000 square foot specialty laboratory opening in mid-2023 at South Dakota State University (SDSU) Research Park in Brookings. The institute is the product of a partnership between SDSU and South Dakota Mines, made possible by a $5 million gift from POET, along with $20 million in statutory funding, $2 million from South Dakota Corn, and a additional annual funding from South Dakota Soybean. Council for Research and Development and the State.

According to SDSU President Barry Dunn, the idea has been brewing for some time.

“Over the past eight years or so, Jeff Broin [POET’s Founder and CEO] and Jeff Laut [POET’s President and COO] challenged SDSU to be more proactive and relevant on biofuels and bioproducts, and in 2019, during Governor Noem’s State of the State Address, she challenged the people of this state to challenge to come up with a bold idea,” he said.

After the Governor’s speech, Dunn turned to Broin and Lautt with his bold idea — a bioproducts institute that would work not just on biofuels innovation, but other biobased products.

As a state land-grant university, Dunn says SDSU has a responsibility to the agricultural sector that dates back to its inception in 1889.

“It goes back to our mission related to agriculture and the state of South Dakota, but it’s new, it’s not the traditional way of thinking.”

Barry Dunn, SDSU President

“It’s about expanding that vision to see agriculture not just as food, but as a substrate for our fuels and biology-related products. It could be related to medicine, or it could replace petroleum-based products, and so that’s an extension of our mission that we needed to do in the 21st century.

From POET’s perspective, collaboration with universities is key to providing the next generation of talent for the bioproducts sector.

“One thing that’s pretty cool about POET is that we have opportunities in everything from finance to business, marketing, human resources, microbiology and all engineering disciplines. “, said Lautt.

“It makes us very interested in working with universities to give them feedback on what we see and what we need. I think we’re getting a great response from the universities we work with to make sure they adapt and stay on the cutting edge.

Impact on South Dakota and the World

The work done at the POET Bioproducts Institute will have an impact in many areas, from value-added agriculture to sustainability to economic development. This impact will be felt locally in the State of South Dakota, regionally in the Midwest, and globally.

“Here at POET, we talk a lot about our mission to restore balance between Earth and humans. We believe that over the past 150 years, when the world has used a lot of oil, we have gotten out of sync and we have exhausted a lot of
resources,” Lautt said.

In South Dakota, where agriculture is the number one industry, POET said the 21st century will be all about the intersection of agriculture and biology.

“As biology has advanced, there are now all kinds of science and technology that can create products and energy from agricultural resources where 50 to 100 years ago you couldn’t compete with the oil,” Lautt said.

“We painted the picture for South Dakota Mines and SDSU that we think the Midwest will be the next Silicon Valley – the Ag Valley.”

Jeff Lautt, POET President and COO

A big part of what will make this vision a reality are higher education institutions. Universities in the Midwest are developing biotechnology institutes that become resources for students and provide opportunities for the private sector to collaborate and develop technology alongside undergraduate and graduate minds.

“You need to have the resources to be able to do some of this pre-pilot or pre-commercial technology scaling work, and SDSU didn’t have that, and neither did South Dakota Mines. So it’s really one of the first big companies where schools came together to work with the private sector,” Lautt said.

“With POET being the largest biofuels company in the world, based right here in South Dakota, and having the connections we have at these two universities, it became clear that we would be a good lead donor to make the project a reality.”

Jeff Lautt speaks at South Dakota State University’s groundbreaking for the POET Bioproducts Institute

POET’s involvement

The institute will develop courses in bioprocessing with a focus on value-added agriculture, especially specialty animal feeds and biomaterials. Universities will offer academic degrees, seeking input from POET on course and degree program development.

As an industry leader, POET will play an active role in the development and operation of the facility, from design to governance to development of the aforementioned program.

The facility will be managed by a new non-profit organization, Dakota Bioproducts
Institute of Innovation.

“We will serve on the board for a long time, serving alongside other industry representatives as well as representatives from SDSU and South Dakota Mines, and we will lead this institute to be successful,” Lautt said.

This success should have an impact on universities, the state and the world.

“It would be remiss of me not to take this opportunity to thank Jeff Broin and Jeff Lautt for their vision, their energy and also their relentlessness in promoting this as part of the future, literally, of our planet, and to helping our state catch up and be part of that future,” Dunn said.

“The rewards of this will certainly benefit POET as a company, but it will benefit all of us in ways no one can really imagine right now. This is a very exciting project that will change the world for all of us. , and it was their enthusiasm that really drove it forward.We owe them a lot of thanks – we all do.

Learn more about the POET Bioproducts Institute


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