NCGA contest seeks new ways to produce chemicals from corn

By Erin Voegele | June 13, 2017

The National Corn Growers Association and NineSigma have launched a global competition to identify new innovative uses for field corn as a renewable feedstock for chemical production.

“Corn has a history of being an abundant, cost-effective, and sustainable feedstock for chemicals used in thousands of products. This challenge is geared to inspire new concepts, approaches and technologies that will help drive innovation,” said Larry Hoffmann, a farmer from Wheatland, North Dakota and chairman of NCGA’s Corn Productivity and Quality Action Team. “In addition to researchers who have increased the spectrum of renewable chemicals from corn to date, we are reaching out to the global innovation community that is largely untapped regarding new product frontiers for corn.”

Up to six awards of $25,000 each will be made. The NCGA indicated it may also explore funding or other support of an entry even if the entry is not a prize winner.

Successful proposals are described as those that use components of the corn kernel as primary feedstock, have a clear path for the scale-up to commercial scale, and enable a new market for corn. Proposals should not detract from an existing corn market and should lead to products with significant market demand. The NCGA also indicated successful proposals will involve a team with experience taking a process or plan from lab scale to commercial scale.

Eligible feedstocks for the challenge include distillers grains, ethanol and stover, along with the kernel, cob and components resulting from dry-mill and wet-mill processes.

According to the NCGA, field corn production in the U.S. reached 13.6 billion bushels in 2015, up from 4.2 billion bushels in1970. There is currently a field corn surplus of 1.8 billion bushels, the association added, noting continued efficient production is driving the need to find new uses for field corn. The NGCA also said its strategic plan includes a goal to establish three new uses for field corn, with each utilizing 25 million bushels or more by 2020.

The contest was launched June 7. An informational webinar is scheduled for June 28, with entries due Sept. 28. Winners are expected to be announced in February.

Additional information is available on the NineSigma website