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Lanzatech recognised for game-changing biofuel technology

Wednesday 29 Aug 2012 5:18 p.m.

By Tony Field

A New Zealand firm has been named by the World Economic Forum (WEF) as a potential technology game-changer.

Lanzatech is working on a way to turn industrial waste gases into biofuel. The WEF says the company has the potential to transform the future of both business and society.

Lanzatech is no stranger to awards, but its founder says being recognised by the WEF has special significance.

“It brings our technology to the forefront of people's views of how technology can change our current paradigm around the production of fuels, the production of chemicals,” says Lanzatech chief scientific officer Dr Sean Simpson.

The company has been noticed for developing a microbe that turns industrial waste into ethanol, which can then be used as a biofuel in cars and planes.

Chief executive Jennifer Holmgren says it’s technology which could have a huge impact.

“They believe that we are going to have serious staying power. They believe that we can make a difference.”

Lanzatech's investors include Silicon Valley billionaire Vinod Koshla, and Sir Stephen Tindall.

But it'll need tens of millions of dollars more if it's to commercialise its technology within two or three years.

“By attracting offshore capital you have the opportunity to attract access to offshore markets, you have the opportunity to attract a network that you otherwise wouldn't have,” says Dr Simpson.

He says New Zealand could be doing more to commercialise its bright ideas - not just with more funding - but also opening young people's eyes to how exciting and rewarding science can be.

“From my perspective, kids that ask a lot of questions are our future employees.”

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