Spotlight on Illinois: Industry Research Gem

EPM's Spotlight on Illinois also includes information about work at a research center in that state. The National Corn-to-Ethanol Research Center opened its doors in 2003.
By Holly Jessen | February 11, 2015

The National Corn-to-Ethanol Research Center is a not-for-profit research center located at Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville. It was established through the 1997 Farm Bill, with $14 million in federal money and $7 million in funds from the state of Illinois. John Caupert, director, touched on some high points:

When NCERC opened its doors in 2003, most of our research focused on process optimization and efficiencies in the corn ethanol industry. For the first five to seven years, the Center had many different contractual clients conducting a diverse range of research and seeking validation and scale-up services in traditional corn-to-ethanol and advanced biofuels projects. These clients were often startup businesses, backed with venture capital funding.

Today, many of our clients are household names, and the research spans well beyond traditional ethanol and biofuels projects into specialty chemicals and biobased products. While client names and day-to-day research projects may have shifted, one thing remains constant: NCERC is the only facility in the world at which corn ethanol, cellulosic ethanol, advanced biofuels and specialty chemical research is conducted simultaneously.  Over the past 11 years, more than 50 technologies have passed through the Center’s doors to enter the commercial marketspace, generating in excess of $5.6 billion in annual revenue.

We are very proud of our renewed efforts in workforce training and education. A $10 million U.S. Department of Labor’s Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College Career Training program grant represents a new and exciting chapter in training the next generation of workers in the bioprocessing industries. Our past successes with internship programs and training for dislocated workers demonstrate the center’s expertise at developing and implementing successful education programs. Of our 62 past interns, 57 went on to immediate employment, with the remaining five going on to pursue further educational opportunities.

Lear more about the Illinios ethanol industry and a Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville, professor writing a book about the history of the ethanol industry