Alliance launched to support the growth of the UK bioeconomy

By BioPilotsUK | October 24, 2016

On Oct. 19, five established R&D centers across the U.K. announced a new alliance, BioPilotsUK. This alliance will seek to position Britain as a global leader in biorefining technology development and biobased product manufacture—two key elements of the bioeconomy.

The founding centers are BEACON (Wales), the Biorenewables Development Centre (BDC - York), the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI - Redcar), IBioIC (Scotland) and The Biorefinery Centre (Norwich).

BioPilotsUK brings together the nation’s leading expertise and facilities to help innovative ideas navigate the so called “valley of death” by demonstrating new biobased 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,” expands Adam Charlton, BEACON Project Manager, BioComposites Centre, Bangor University. “As an alliance, we can significantly de-risk the innovation process for anyone exploring a biobased idea.”

By working collaboratively, the alliance seeks to significantly speed up the commercialization of new green processes and products from biomass, including: plants, algae, and wastes.

“Together we offer the skills, facilities and industry experience to help our partners tackle all manner of biobased projects such as turning food by-products into pharmaceuticals, improving anaerobic digestion processes or developing batteries from biomass,” notes Joe Ross, director of BDC.

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 biobased project using expertise and facilities from across the five centers.

“The five founding open-access centers have developed a wealth of experience in blending the right processes and technologies to translate biobased innovations into commercial opportunities for our clients and partners. We want this alliance to make that an even more effective experience and in particular to accelerate the creation and growth of more SMEs in this sector,” explains, Frank Millar, director of operations at CPI.

“The U.K. has huge potential for developing its biobased and industrial biotechnology (IB) sectors. The breadth and depth of experience, knowledge and equipment of the alliance, will help companies across Scotland, England and Wales to harness these opportunities faster and more cost effectively,” says Roger Kilburn, CEO of IBioIC.

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 U.K. bioeconomy is already worth £153 billion in gross value-added (GVA) terms, generating over 4 million jobs.