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Strength in places: Seedcorn funding set to boost Scotland’s ‘bio-revolution’

Ambitious plans to boost the economic impact of Scotland’s burgeoning industrial biotechnology sector have received early-stage funding from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

The project, led by the Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre (IBioIC), the University of Strathclyde and involving a consortium of collaborative partners, aims to accelerate the development of biology-based products for a wide range of sectors, from health to agriculture and the marine sector.

The proposals include:

  • Creating a Centre of Excellence for Engineering Biology, with an incubator to support new companies
  • Extending and enhancing the bioprocess technology scale-up facilities provided by IBioIC – Scotland’s Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre
  • Creating an industry partnership and skills hub to enable companies to connect and collaborate with other UK centres of excellence, and to access skills training.

It is one of 24 shortlisted submissions across the UK to be granted up to £50k from the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Strength in Places Fund to develop a full-stage bid that could lead to significant economic growth. The consortium behind the project will submit their bid to UKRI in late 2019, with four to eight of the strongest bids set to receive between £10m and £50m each to carry out their projects.

Professor Sir Jim McDonald, Principal & Vice-Chancellor of the University of Strathclyde, said: “Industrial biotechnology has enormous promise in the development of new approaches to medicines development, agriculture, marine and industrial sectors such as food and textiles.

“Today’s announcement underlines the importance of Scotland’s burgeoning biotechnology sector to the economy. We are particularly proud to host IBioIC – Scotland’s Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre – at Strathclyde, in the heart of the Glasgow City Innovation District. We’re pleased to be working with our collaborating partners across Scotland to take our proposals to the next level.

“Key to our bid is bringing partners from industry, academia and the public sector together to make an impact of scale on society and the wider economy.”

Announced in the modern Industrial Strategy in November 2017, the Strength in Places Fund will benefit all nations and regions of the UK by enabling them to tap into the world-class research and innovation capability that is spread right across the country. The fund brings together research organisations, businesses, and local leadership on projects that will lead to significant economic impact, high-value job creation and regional growth.

Professor Sir Mark Walport, Chief Executive of UK Research and Innovation, said: “Our clear vision is to ensure we benefit everyone through knowledge, talent and ideas. Significant support through the Strength in Places Fund will further catalyse economic potential across the country by bringing researchers, industry and regional leadership together to drive sustained growth through world-class research and innovation.”

Work will now begin on taking the IBioIC / University of Strathclyde led submission to full bid.

Dame Anne Glover, Chair of the Governing Board of the IBioIC said: “With Strength in Places funding, we aim to boost the economic impact of the vibrant Industrial Biotechnology sector in Scotland’s Central Belt.

“We will fast track the pathway from research to commercial deployment by filling gaps in the existing innovation system to unlock further economic impacts from the ‘bio-revolution’ – developing biology-based products and platforms.”

The project consortium includes expertise from industrial and academic players in synthetic biology (Ingenza, GSK), biorefining (Cellucomp, Celtic Renewables, 3FBio, Marine Biopolymers Ltd) and Grangemouth cluster colocation providers (Ineos, Calachem and Forth Ports) as well as the leading academic institutes in the region (Universities of Strathclyde, Edinburgh and Glasgow, Heriot Watt University, James Hutton Institute and Forth Valley College).

Julia Brown, Senior Director of the High Value Manufacturing and Health Team at Scottish Enterprise, said: “This bid supports innovation in the transition of Scotland’s national asset, Grangemouth, from manufacturing based on petrochemical resources to sustainable bio-based high value manufacturing enabled by the bio-economy. This will reduce the population’s reliance on finite fossil resources and move towards a future of sustainable manufacturing.”

The proposals are supported by Scottish Enterprise, Scottish Development International, Scottish Futures Trust, Scottish Funding Council and the local authorities across the region.

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