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£35 million to support research for vital industrial sector

In a speech later today, Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts, will announce 35M funding to boost research in Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy. The funding, from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), will create networks and collaborative research between academia and industry offering a channel for sustainable economic growth for the UK and new 'green collar' jobs.

The funding will create two new schemes to develop the UK's industrial biotechnology and bioenergy research community (including biopharmaceuticals and biorenewables) and to support the translation of new ideas into commercial applications. The new schemes form the central part of BBSRC's strategy to support the development of industrial biotechnology and bioenergy (IBBE) as a key component of the UK bioeconomy.

Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts said: "Industrial biotechnology is a very promising area of science that could provide greener solutions for many important sectors, like manufacturing and life sciences. Through investing in research and working with industry we can harness the UK's expertise in this area to drive growth and create jobs."

Industrial biotechnology is the harnessing of bio-based inputs for the production of industrially useful products on a large scale. If offers novel solutions through the use of plants, bacteria, algae and fungi as non-fossil sources that will benefit many UK industry sectors including chemicals, renewable energy, materials, and health.

BBSRC's new strategy in IBBE will support both networking activities and investment in major application-focused integrated research projects.

The first phase is a competition for Networks, aimed at both emerging and established areas of importance to IBBE. BBSRC has committed up to 15M to foster collaboration between academic researchers and business at all levels, in order to find new approaches to tackle research challenges. The Networks will work across the boundaries of biology, chemistry and engineering. They also encourage the participation of other disciplines including mathematics, computational modelling, environmental science, economics and social science.

The second phase of the strategy will be launched in 2014 with 20M to support major integrated research projects in IBBE derived from the networking activities and involving the academic and business communities.

Dr Celia Caulcott, BBSRC Director, Innovation and Skills, said: "Investing in industrial biotechnology and bioenergy research has the potential to generate significant returns. World-class research exists within the UK and these schemes will do more to achieve its full potential for industry, economic growth and society as a whole. The bioeconomy is worth trillions globally and could bring major benefits to the UK and create thousands of jobs in the coming years. These benefits offer a sustainable and 'green' future with more efficient manufacturing, of biopharmaceuticals for example, and a shift away from fossil fuels towards renewable foundations.'

"Through these schemes we are seeking to energise the UK industrial biotechnology and bioenergy community and to support the building of strong research networks, industry-academic collaborations and new ideas that can be funded through to the brink of commercial application. This will ensure that emerging areas of bioscience are fully integrated into the industrial biotechnology arena."

Contact: Rob Dawson
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council

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