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Successful technology transfer

From the idea to commissioning.

Result of a long-term cooperation: Cargill opens new production plant with a microreactor technology developed at KIT.

"The impetus for a first joint technology transfer project with Cargill arose from the many years of cooperation with Prof. Dr. Jürgen Brandner from the Institute of Microstructure Technology, in 2008," recalls Dr. Rainer Körber, PhD chemist and innovation manager at KIT. "We developed many ideas together, including on micro heat exchangers and microreactors. I have also been in regular exchange with Cargill since about 2008," Körber adds. Cargill is involved in the trade of food and feed products, including food commodities such as glucose and starch. "The microreactor technology developed at KIT is interesting for the polymerization of sugar and thus for Cargill's manufacturing processes. So we came up with the idea of combining the two. That was basically the foundation stone for the long-standing collaboration and the recently commissioned plant," sums up Körber.

The new production line will enable Cargill to manufacture soluble dietary fiber.
The new production line will enable Cargill to manufacture soluble dietary fiber.

The purpose of the first technology transfer project launched in 2011 was to demonstrate, develop, and validate, initially on a laboratory scale, how KIT microreactor technology could be applied to the specific needs of Cargill. Successful laboratory tests with good results in terms of conversion and selectivity were followed by the construction of a pilot plant that tested the technology for sustainability, robustness, and reliability, and which is still in use today at the Cargill plant in Krefeld. "I have already accompanied many technology transfer projects. After the feasibility phase, of course, we always want to see it scaled up to large scale and thus used not only in research but also in industry. The motto 'Never change a running system' has to be overcome, confidence in innovation has to be created and thus new technologies have to be established. We were very pleased when we heard from Cargill that they had decided to build a new plant and thus for the first time to use the technology developed at KIT on a production scale," Körber reports. A decision that was not easy and risky, taking into account market changes, industry development, and company policy. "Relying on a new, unproven technology is and remains uncertain. The fact that Cargill has decided to do so is a noteworthy decision. Also for us from KIT's point of view, because there is much more at stake here than 'just' good laboratory results, such as increasing sales and product purity.

The new production line will enable the company to meet the growing demand for reduced-sugar products.
The new production line will enable the company to meet the growing demand for reduced-sugar products.

It really isn't every day that a joint development project results in a plant costing 38 million euros," Körber continues. With the intention of developing a new technology that promises to increase sales for Cargill in later use through more efficient processes and increased capacity, the cooperation partners have laid the foundation for successful plant construction in years of collaboration from idea generation to technology development and scale-up. On November 16, 2022, the new production plant in Wroclaw, Poland, was officially opened. Together with KIT, Cargill has focused on an innovative technical solution for future polydextrose production. "I am pleased that today we can jointly inaugurate such an important investment," said Ryszard Pacholik, mayor of the Kobierzyce district, at the commissioning ceremony.

Cargill is laying the foundation for increasing demand for reduced-sugar products with the new plant. The new production line will enable the company to manufacture soluble dietary fibers that deliver sugar reductions of at least 30 percent. This will enable food and beverage manufacturers to improve the nutritional profile of a wide range of products, including confectionery, bakery, dairy and beverages.


Images: Cargill Inc.

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