Interview Jean François ROUS - Corporate Innovation Director, Sofiproteol, France
After holding various positions, always in the innovation sector, in large multinational groups, Jean-François ROUS joined the Agency for Industrial Innovation (AII), where he participated in the genesis of a number of French major innovation projects.
In 2008, he joined the Group Sofiprotéol where in 2010 he took charge of the Innovation Directorate, where his main mission is to develop and drive the vision of the Innovation Group in the different sectors of energy and sustainable chemistry, food and animal nutrition.
o What is SOFIPROTEOL?
Sofiprotéol is the financial and industrial actor of french vegetable oil and protein industry formed in 1983 at the initiative of the French federation of oilseed and protein crop producers : the Fop, the ONIDOL and UNIP. Originally a financial establishment for the French vegetable oil and protein subsidiary, Proléa, Sofiprotéol’s investments and acquisitions have made it a major agri-food group in France today.
o You have a unique structure and organization, could you elaborate on
your development strategy?
Sofiprotéol’s strategy rests on the complementary relationship between financial and industrial activities. It focuses particularly on nutrition and the environment — key domains of sustainable development.
A balanced presence throughout these industries.
Human and animal nutrition lie at the heart of the Group’s activities.
• In the field of human nutrition, Sofiprotéol offers high-quality products for the general public, with an emphasis on health.
• In the field of animal nutrition, the Group uses residue from oil production to produce animal feed (oilseed cakes).
The Group combats climate change and promotes environmental protection more generally by developing renewable energy and renewable chemicals.
• In the field of renewable energy, Sofiprotéol is the European leader in biodiesel production.
• In the field of renewable chemistry, the Group has become a key player in oleochemistry with its subsidiaries Novance and Oléon.
Finally unlike some investors that seek short-term profits, the Group is dedicated to building relationships with sector professionals.
Through its financial commitment, Sofiprotéol supports development and innovation across all aspects of the industry. This commitment can take several forms :
• loans for innovation,
• acquisition of share holdings in companies within the industry,
• temporary funding in the event of major fluctuations in share prices.
Through its industrial commitment,Sofiprotéol helps to strengthen the industry’s structure for pre- and post-production activities: from improving seeds to developing new markets for plant chemistry, including biotechnology and biodiesel.
o Jean François, could you describe your main activities and explain why
your group is interested by microalgae?
As the Group has its majors interests in the areas of nutrition, health, bioenergies and chemistry, based on oils and proteins, the link with microalgaes is obvious! These species are just a "new" source of oils and proteins.
However with the current technical and economical urdles, the development of microalgaes will be gradual starting from high value products (food and feed), with bioenergy on the long run, through chemicals in between. Which means all our domains of interest.
o We see a lot of interest and activity in the sector of microalgae. Do
you think you could compete with companies such as Solazyme, BioAlgene, Roquette?
As for many new sectors, as everything has to be developed, there is room for many players. New markets cannot develop if only a couple of players are acting on it. So the more new players will work on micoralgaes, the more this sector is likely to take of!
o What kind of partnerships are you looking for?
In term of commercial development how do you see your development in microalgae
As this point we do not have any specific partnership in mind. We are thrying to better understand the sector as it is today, what are the key technical and economical issues.