Materials maker Braskem is building a Renewable Innovation Center in Lexington, Mass.
Greater Boston is home to more than 60 colleges, as well as several biotechnology research facilities. That gave the area an edge over sites in Europe and the U.S. West Coast that Braskem also considered, according to global biotechnology head Daniel MacEachran.
"We have a series of commitments and goals around circularity and carbon neutrality," he said in a phone interview with Plastics News. "As a result, we need a robust strategy to increase recycled content in products."
"We're looking to expand out renewable portfolio dramatically over the next five years."
In a news release, officials said that the 35,000-square-foot center is set to open in the second half of 2023 and will focus on accelerating innovation in renewable chemicals and sustainable materials. Capabilities there will expand Braskem's competencies in biotechnology, catalysis, process engineering and open innovation.
One focus of the center, officials said, will be early-stage science and engineering for conversion of biomass-based feedstocks, including sugars, cellulose and plant oils, to sustainable chemicals and materials. Braskem — based in São Paulo, with North American headquarters in Philadelphia — already is a large producer of sugar-based bio-polyethylene resins.
Braskem America CEO Mark Nikolich said in the release that the center "reflects Braskem's ongoing commitment to a carbon-neutral circular economy and having a positive impact on the environment."
He added that Braskem will invest around $20 million tin the center and will continue to invest in "developing and retaining a world-class, Boston metro area-based innovation team to create proprietary intellectual property in sustainable chemicals and materials."
Braskem's work in the new Lexington center will complement the firm's global R&D work currently being conducted in Campinas and Triunfo, Brazil as well as in Pittsburgh.
"The attitude toward renewables is changing," MacEachern said. "There's more recognition that renewable content is important. There's a drive toward carbon neutrality."
Braskem ranks as Brazil's largest petrochemicals firm and as one of North America's largest producers of polypropylene resin. The firm employs almost 8,000 globally.