BEACON Wales is co-founder of new alliance launched to support the growth of the UK bioeconomy
19 October 2016
The award-winning BEACON Wales project is one of five established R&D centres across the UK announcing a new alliance today - BioPilotsUK. This alliance will seek to position Britain as a global leader in biorefining technology development and bio-based product manufacture – two key elements of the bioeconomy.
The founding centres are BEACON (Wales), the Biorenewables Development Centre (BDC - York), the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI - Redcar), IBioIC (Scotland) and The Biorefinery Centre (Norwich).
BEACON is a Welsh Government EU funded collaboration led by Aberystwyth University working with Bangor and Swansea Universities where scientists specialise in bio-refining.
BioPilotsUK brings together the nation’s leading expertise and facilities to help innovative ideas navigate the so called “valley of death” by demonstrating new bio-based processes and products at a commercially-relevant scale, in turn helping clients invest in the right technologies to grow their businesses.
“What we are all about is supporting the transition away from fossil resources by making the best use of biorenewable materials and unavoidable wastes,” said Adam Charlton, BEACON Project Manager from the BioComposites Centre, Bangor University. “As an alliance, we can significantly de-risk the innovation process for anyone exploring a bio-based idea.”
By working collaboratively, the alliance seeks to significantly speed up the commercialisation of new green processes and products from biomass, including: plants, algae, and wastes.
Due to the varied nature of these raw materials, or feedstocks, there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to biorefining, rather a series of technologies that must be trialled and combined. Now, the new alliance can quickly assemble the right team for any given bio-based project using expertise and facilities from across the five centres.
BEACON was established in 2011 and announced a further £12 million investment by Welsh Government, backed by £8 million of EU funds in December 2015.
The bioeconomy offers a multi-billion-pound, global business opportunity: it is worth around €2 trillion in Europe alone and is growing rapidly worldwide. Offering the potential to deliver greater business value through social, environmental and financial benefits, it is estimated that the UK bioeconomy is already worth £153 billion in gross value-added (GVA) terms, generating over four million jobs*.
“BioPilotsUK will enable Britain to realise the potential to tap both bioresources and biotechnology to create novel industrial products and processes necessary for an economically and environmentally sustainable nation,” notes Keith Waldron, Director, the Biorefinery Centre.
Professor Iain Donnison from Aberystwyth University’s IBERS (Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences) is Director of BEACON and said:
“BEACON is developing new green technologies, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which are needed to deliver on the Paris climate agreement signed by world leaders at the United Nations earlier this year. Such low carbon technologies also offer new opportunities to support economic activity and jobs, in both urban and rural Wales.”
The announcement comes at the opening of annual market-leading conference, the European Forum in Industrial Biotechnology and the Bioeconomy (EFIB) 2016, which is being held in Glasgow this year.
* “Biotech Britain: An assessment of the impact of industrial biotechnology and bioenergy on the United Kingdom economy” Capital Economics, June 2015. http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/documents/capital-economics-biotech-britain-july-2015/