Sugars from grass can produce bioethanol and so much more.

Sugars from grass can produce bioethanol and so much more.

15 February 2011

Aberystwyth University leads new £20 million green technology programme

Aberystwyth University is leading a major new initiative that could boost the green economy in Wales and make a significant contribution to combating climate change.

The BEACON programme will aim to develop new technologies and new ways of making products that are traditionally made from oil. It will establish Wales as a Bio-refining Centre of Excellence, with a total budget of £20 million.

Deputy First Minister for Wales, Ieuan Wyn Jones AM, today announced £10.5 million of funding for the programme from the European Regional Development Fund.

Mr Jones, who is also Minister for the Economy and Transport, made the announcement at an event at the Senedd on Tuesday 15 February, showcasing world class research at Aberystwyth University that is responding to 21st century global challenges.

BEACON will also build closer links between universities and industry, promote Welsh expertise in scientific research and innovation within Europe and the United States and boost inward investment in these technologies for the benefit of Wales.

Aberystwyth takes the lead
The Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) at Aberystwyth is the lead organisation in the programme in collaboration with Bangor and Swansea universities.

The pioneering research will involve bio-refining – developing sophisticated processes to turn locally grown crops into valuable chemicals and commercial products, ranging from fuels to cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, textiles, food and health products.

Bio-refining means that full use is made of crops, whilst cutting back on emissions of greenhouse gases. IBERS is already carrying out innovative work in producing fuels from energy crops such as high-sugar grasses.

“We are delighted to be leading this partnership project that has the potential to provide immense benefits for the whole of Wales and the world,” said the Vice-Chancellor of Aberystwyth University, Professor Noel Lloyd.

“By pooling the knowledge and using the joint expertise of our three universities, we can develop centres of excellence across Wales to respond to a major global challenge.”

A boost for Wales
The benefits are many:
• The new energy crops can be grown on land that is not suitable for other arable uses.
• Replacing some of the industrial chemicals produced from oil with similar molecules from plants that could supply potential markets within easy reach of Welsh producers that could be worth between £360 million and £560 million.
• Turning crops such as Rye Grass, Miscanthus, Oats and Artichokes into valuable fuels and chemicals would cut back on greenhouse gases, would increase fuel and chemical security whilst adding value to Welsh agriculture and the economy.
• Chemicals derived from energy crops have uses in a range of sectors, including: industry, transport, textiles, food, communication, the environment, recreation, housing and health and hygiene.
• They include new materials called bio-composites and bio-plastics
• As well as creating and safeguarding jobs in the rural economy, the pioneering work will help develop science in Wales.

“IBERS has always been a world leader in the development of new sustainability opportunities,” said the Director of IBERS, Professor Wayne Powell. “The BEACON programme is based on the concept of bio-refining, using the most advanced academic research to provide practical solutions to global problems.”