Significant investment in industrial biotechnology

Dr Joe Gallagher, IBERS

Dr Joe Gallagher, IBERS

20 December 2013

Research into the development of industrial products from plants at Aberystwyth University will receive a share of an £18M initiative to support Networks in Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy following an announcement this week by UK Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts. 

The Networks are funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and designed to boost interaction between the academic research base and industry to help provide sustainable processes for producing bio-based alternative products which currently rely on petrochemicals. 

Dr Joe Gallagher from the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) at Aberystwyth University, and Prof David Leak from the University of Bath, will direct one of the 13 unique industry-academic networks ‘A Network  of Integrated Technologies: Plants to Products’. 

This network, which includes over 50 academic and industrial members, will provide a platform to bring together academic and industrial experts involved in innovation, manufacturing and supply chains within the industrial biotechnology sector. 

It will focus on integrating entire bio-refining processes, from initial feedstock through to the generation and delivery of products. Feedstocks will include non-food crops and agricultural and industrial waste-streams. 

The network will provide funding for small proof of concept projects that will address bottlenecks to commercialisation and will form the basis of bids into the £45 million Industrial Biotechnology Catalyst funded by the BBSRC, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Technology Strategy Board (TSB). 

Welcoming the announcement, Dr Gallagher said; “This is an exciting opportunity to bring together expertise and resources from both academia and business to support the bio-economy by addressing major challenges in industrial biotechnology.” 

Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts said; "To get ahead in the global race we need to turn our world-beating science and research into world-beating products and services, as set out in our Industrial Strategy. These networks will unlock the huge potential of biotechnology and bioenergy, such as finding innovative ways to use leftover food, and creating chemicals from plant cells.” 

Dr Celia Caulcott, BBSRC Executive Director, Innovation and Skills, said: “These networks bring together a number of internationally competitive, cross-disciplinary communities capable of undertaking innovative research that will attract further investment from the UK and abroad. 

“They provide a new opportunity for the research community to make significant contributions to the UK’s bioeconomy: driving transformational bioscience into industrial processes and products; creating wealth and jobs; and delivering environmental benefits, such as CO2 reduction.” 

IBERS receives strategic research funding from the BBSRC to support long term mission driven research, and is a member of the National Institutes of Bioscience. IBERS also benefits from financial support from the Welsh Government, DEFRA and the European Union.