Petroleum is a vital raw material for the chemical industry. Yet this finite fossil resource is steadily becoming scarcer and more expensive. Biomass, which includes wood, corn starch, sugar beets and vegetable oils, provides one alternative source of carbon. Plastics, paints and fine chemicals can also be produced from by-products of the food industry, such as whey and crab shells. The research community and industry are currently developing new processes for these alternative methods, many of which have already been successfully implemented on a laboratory or pilot scale. The task now is to transfer these methods to a demonstration and industrial scale.