The resurgence of biofuels in the recent past has brought new perspectives for renewable energy sources. Gradually the optimistic scenarios were being challenged by the competition for raw materials dedicated to direct or indirect human food. Second-generation biorefineries have emerged as technological alternatives to produce biofuels from lignocellulosic biomass. The third generation of biorefineries uses alternative raw materials like algae and microalgae. Despite the technical feasibility, these biorefineries were indebted for their economic performance. Synthetic biology has provided new microbial platforms that are increasingly better adapted to industrial characteristics to produce biofuels and fine chemicals. Synthetic biology bioengineers microorganisms to take advantage of the low-cost and less-noble raw materials like lignocellulosic biomass, carbon dioxide, and waste as a sustainable alternative for bioenergy generation using bio-substrates. In this chapter, we analyze the innovations in synthetic biology as applied to cellulosic ethanol production based on registered patents issued over the last twenty years (1999–2019). Using Questel-Orbit Intelligence, we recovered a total of 298 patent families, from which we extracted the key concepts and technology clusters, the primary technological domains and applications, the geographical distribution of patents, and the leading patents assignees. Besides, we discuss the perspectives for future research and innovations and the market and policy opportunities for innovation in this technological field. We conclude that the patented technologies serve as a proxy for the development of synthetic biotechnology applied in cellulosic ethanol production by the fourth generation of biorefineries.
Part of the book: Biorefineries