Prof Urs Baier is a lecturer and leads his own research group (Laboratory of Environmental Biotechnology) at the Institute of Chemistry and Biotechnology of the ZHAW Zurich University of Applied Sciences in Waedenswil, Switzerland.
Urs was born in nearby Zurich, the largest city in Switzerland, where he lived until the end of his studies in Biotechnology at the ETH Zurich in 1982. Already during his studies, he was fascinated by industrial biotechnology and was attracted to processes for the valorization of wastewater, waste and biomass. After his doctorate on the physiology of thermophilic Bacilli, Urs worked for 8 years as a R&D Manager on projects for wastewater treatment and sludge treatment plants in a medium-sized company. In 1994, Urs moved back to academia and was appointed Professor of Environmental Biotechnology at the ZHAW, where he leads an interdisciplinary team that is developing technologies and implementing management strategies for organic wastes, biomass, water, wastewater and sewage sludge and exhaust air. Since 2014, his lab is a member of the Swiss Competence Center for Energy Research “BIOSWEET Biomass for Swiss Energy Future”.
As well as being oriented towards applied environmental technologies, the work of Urs’ lab has a very strong focus on microbiology and on the application of microbes for environmental remediation and biomass valorization. For more than two decades his group has been working on strategies and concepts to use microorganisms for pretreatment of organic residues to allow for improved degradation or recovery of value-added components. During recent years, Urs has evolved a special interest in anaerobic fungi in terms of their application for substrate specific pretreatment of biomass and wastes for further exploitation in bioenergy, biomaterial and biorefinery concepts. Since 2016, Urs’ lab has worked closely with the microbiology lab at Innsbruck University, and from this collaboration a trinational research project on “Unleashing the hidden potential of the anaerobic fungi” began in 2018.