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From the year 2007 to year 2013, global added value for high-value manufacturing has dropped by 0.2% (from 0.8% to 0.6%) while National Biotechnology Policy wants to enable biotechnology to contribute to 5% of the nation’s GDP by 2020.

In order to regain the momentum in high-value manufacturing and to enable biotechnology to contribute to 5% of Malaysia’s GDP by 2020, process engineering is the key proponent for moving bio-innovation up the Technology Readiness Level (TRL) chain, especially at TRL 5 and TRL 6 since bio-innovation has to be scaled-up and tested in commercial environment.

What is the process engineering role in advancing to TRL 5 and TRL 6?

Process engineering deals with issues that bio-innovators are not aware off during pilot testing and scale up. These include:

  • Formulation science for extraction efficiency, spray dry efficiency, and preservation of bioactivity along the production line.
  • Customisation of operating parameters (carrier agent, residence time, solid content, temperature, atomisation, pressure drop, etc) of production lines according to the nature of the bio-compounds (hygroscopicity, thermal half-life, glass transition temperature, etc).

Process engineering in value innovation

To compete with a flood of cheaper Chinese unit operations (equipment) in the market, process engineering is necessary for value innovation (for more definition of value innovation, please refer to Blue Ocean Strategy) of SMEs as this approach is not replicable by giant e-commerce platforms such as Alibaba (B2B), as Alibaba is not a knowledge transfer platform.

The interdisciplinary nature of value innovation (e.g. formulation science and process engineering) is the key to providing relevancy of biotech based high-value manufacturing to avoid commoditisation of conventional manufacturing and trading approach of engineering SMEs in Malaysia.