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Two new R&D projects may lessen the world’s dependence on rubber ingredients sourced from petroleum and subtropical rubber plantations. In France, tire maker Michelin will partner with Axens, a catalyst and technology supplier, and IFP Energies Nouvelles, a public sector research organization, to develop a new production process for biobased butadiene. The eight-year effort, called BioButterfly, is backed by a $70 million budget with $20 million coming from the French government. Separately, SGB, a plant biotechnology firm, will collaborate with biomaterials company Yulex on a genomics and molecular breeding program to improve the guayule plant as a source of natural rubber. The plants will not be genetically modified; rather, the firms will pursue genotyping, genetic markers, and novel breeding strategies to increase rubber yield.
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