This site uses cookies to store information on your computer. Learn more x

East China University of Science and Technology (ECUST)

International industry and academic power combined

Our collaboration with the East China University of Science and Technology (ECUST) on fermentation processes has yielded important results in several areas. What’s more it’s a partnership that continues putting down new roots by involving new industry and academic players across both China and the Netherlands. Now it’s expanding into the areas of nutrition and sustainable energy – making better processes for food ingredients and fuel based on renewable sources.
Students from ECUST with Henk Noorman, DSM Corporate Scientist and DSM-ECUST partnership collaborator

The road to China

In 2010 our biotechnologists went to China on a quest to make new contacts in academia, and pursue new business opportunities. In ECUST they found the partner they were looking for. Since the 1950s, ECUST has been using unconventional methods to improve fermentation processes for the Chinese people: So the potential of combining their fermentation expertise with our own was simply too good to pass up.

Responding to the call

Initially, the partners collaborated on improving a specific fermentation process using the fungus Aspergillus niger – a project which continues to this day. Later, when the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology and the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research put out a joint call for proposals for the Rational Design and Scale-Up of Aerobic Industrial Fermentation Process, DSM and ECUST were ideally placed to take up the challenge together.

Teaming up with industry and academia

The DSM Biotechnology Center - a world-renowned seat of knowledge in the field - led the project, which focused on penicillin as a test case. Each party also called on other long-standing scientific partners, expanding the project yet further. At DSM we called in the Technical University of Delft (TU Delft) with its expertise in computational fluid dynamics and computational reaction dynamics. This enabled us to scale down the fermentation process from factory to laboratory bioreactor dimensions. We also teamed-up with DSM Sinochem Pharmaceuticals, who brought in the penicillin case and relevant background information.

ECUST, in turn, linked up with Guojia, a Shanghai-based company with large research fermentors that can be used to analyze pilot-scale experimental results in real-life – a rare capability. Meanwhile another respected institute, the Stuttgart Research Center for Systems Biology, acted as consultant to the project.

Fostering talent

This collaboration between business and academia is also greatly benefiting a new generation of students - with those from ECUST regularly spending up to a year in Delft, and those from TU Delft in Shanghai. Now, DSM and TU Delft are preparing the fourth planned MSc-level lecture series’ on Bioprocess Engineering to be given in Shanghai. Many of the Chinese students working on the penicillin project feel that the course has not only changed the way they view bioprocessing, but that visiting the Netherlands has given them valuable opportunities for scientific exchange with their European counterparts. In fact several students are already making their own contributions to fermentation science, through published papers and presentations at major conferences.

For more information, contact Henk Noorman.


East China University of Science and Technology was founded in 1952 following a merger of three University chemistry departments. It was the first university in China to be oriented toward the chemical industry, and has leading departments in the fields of Chemical Engineering, Biotechnology, Chemistry and Molecular Engineering. Currently, it has almost 25,000 undergraduates and graduate students, taught by 1,000 professors and associate professors.

Through this collaboration, our staff and students have learned new ways of creative thinking from DSM. In fact, our experiment design and quantitative analysis have greatly improved.” Professor Ju Chu, Project Leader at ECUST

The insights gained from the penicillin project are transferrable to many other fermentation applications. Thus, the partners recently started work on new ventures in the fields of nutrition and energy; for example to improve production of gellan gum, a high-quality microbial polysaccharide for the food industry. DSM is also hosting a project to expand research into fermentation processes for the production of bio-ethanol from crop waste.