BBSRC, EPSRC and Innovate UK fund 17 million Industrial Biotechnology Catalyst competition

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A total of 16 projects have today received a share of £17 million to bring innovative challenge-led biotechnology concepts to market. The projects will use cutting edge science to deliver benefits for society: from creating new drugs from bacteria, to making plastic from plants.

The Industrial Biotechnology (IB) Catalyst is a multi-million-pound competition funded by Innovate UK, BBSRC and EPSRC which aims to boost collaborations between the academic and business communities. Industrial biotechnology focuses on developing biological processes to improve efficiency in chemical production and help combat threats such as antimicrobial resistance and reliance on fossil fuels.

In the UK, the sector generates around £2.9 billion annually and supports around 9,000 jobs.

The projects funded under round four of the IB Catalyst focus on a range of topics such as creating biofuels and developing new antibiotics to keep us healthy. One such project from the University of Manchester, John Innes Centre and GlaxoSmithKline will look to improve processes by developing new enzymes which could be used by bacteria to produce drugs molecules in a more cost-effective manner.

Since its inception in 2014, the IB Catalyst has provided valuable support for academic and industrial collaboration to foster research translation. Over £75 million has been invested over four rounds, helping to secure the UK's position as a world-leader in the sector; driving new technologies and creating new jobs.

Professor Melanie Welham, BBSRC Chief Executive, said: Industrial biotechnology has the potential to provide solutions to some of society's greatest challenges. BBSRC will continue to support bioscience researchers working in the sector to deliver a more prosperous, sustainable future.

Professor Philip Nelson, EPSRC's Chief Executive, said: If Industrial Biotechnology is to deliver the solutions it promises we must continue to fund the underpinning science and engineering on which it relies. It is an exciting field that requires a cross-disciplinary approach.

Simon Edmonds, Manufacturing and Materials Director at Innovate UK, said: This latest round of projects demonstrates the clear potential to address these global grand challenges in biotechnology and turn them into exciting business opportunities for UK companies.

Funded projects:

  1. Translation of step-changing bioprocesses and expression system technologies for next-generation protein biologics production in CHO cells
    Lonza Biologics / University of Kent
  2. Enhancing the yield of industrial Actinomycete fermentations
    GSK / University of Strathclyde
  3. Enzymic polymerisation, characterisation and market evaluation of a set of novel bioplastic co-polymers derived from renewable resources
    Biome Technologies / University of York / University of Liverpool
  4. UK Continuous, Integrated Biologics Manaufacturing Project
    Pall Europe Limited / CPI / Allergan / Fujifilm Diosynth Biotecnologies / Medimmune / Sciex UK / Merck Sharp & Dohme
  5. Sugar replacement from microalgae
    GlycoMar Limited / Mars / MicroA AS
  6. Recombinant expression of animal and plant phospholipases
  7. Reducing contamination risk and increasing yields in the production of platform sugars from UK MSW
    Fiberight / University of Southampton / Novozymes US
  8. Methods of Microbial Control in the Clostridial ABE Fermentation Process (MiCON)
    Green Biologics Ltd
  9. Late feasibility of novel methods for improved polyketide drug development
    Isomerase Therapeutics / John Innes Centre
  10. Enzyme co-localisation and aggregation for enhanced metabolic activity for commodity chemicals
    ZuvaSyntha / University of Kent
  11. Viable biotechnological production of industrial methacrylate polymers
    Ingenza / Lucite International
  12. Novel enzyme diversity for improved cleaning and hygiene
    Unilever / University of Exeter
  13. A Synthetic Biology Approach for the Total Biosynthesis of Semi-Synthetic Antibiotics
    University of Manchester / John Innes Centre
  14. New Enzymatically Produced Interpenetrating Starch-Cellulose Gels
    University of Exeter / University of East Anglia / University of Bath / John Innes Centre / Unilever / Croda / AB Agri
  15. ConBioChem: Continuous bio-production of commodity chemicals
    University of Nottingham / University College London / University of Cambridge / Lucite International / Green Biologics / CPI / Ingenza / Chain Biotechnologies
  16. MaxBio - Maximizing conversion yields in Biorefining
    University of Dundee / University of Nottingham / University of York / James Hutton Ltd / Chain Biotechnologies Green Biologics / ReBio Technologies

The funders have no immediate plans for a further round of IB Catalyst beyond the projects announced today. This is following a review of individual Delivery Plans and budget allocations. The first four rounds of Catalyst funding will be reviewed as they progress, and the funders remain committed to supporting the development of the UK industrial biotechnology sector while future funding for the Catalyst is explored.

Notes for editors

The Research Councils and InnovateUK remain committed to supporting those working in industrial biotechnology and bioenergy and applications are welcomed through the normal channels and upcoming opportunities including:

Reference: PN 34-16

Contact Details

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Name: EPSRC Press Office
Telephone: 01793 444404