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Small Companies to Share £2.5M in new Government Investment to Develop Industrial Biotechnology Processes

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The government has announced that it is to invest £2.5 million to stimulate innovation in the UK’s industrial biotechnology sector, with most of the funding going to small and medium-sized companies.

The investment will be made in nineteen feasibility studies, all of which will be led by small and medium-sized British companies. A total of nearly 40 organizations, including many universities, will take part in the studies and receive financial support. The funding, from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), follows the conclusion of a funding competition managed on behalf of BIS by the Technology Strategy Board.

The funding for the feasibility studies was announced today by Ian Lucas MP, Minister for Business and Regulatory Reform, during a visit to the Centre for Process Innovation in Wilton, Teesside.

The Business Minister said: “These projects have a license to innovate. They will look at how industrial biotechnology can be competitively applied to the production of high value chemicals. These could replace petrochemical-derived products, or use micro-organisms to create bio-based products to improve health and nutrition. But with nearly 40 businesses, universities and research organizations getting their heads together, we can guarantee some fascinating results.”

Commenting on the results of the investment funding competition, Merlin Goldman, the Technology Strategy Board’s Lead Technologist for the Biosciences, said: “We were delighted by the high quality of applications received. With nearly two-thirds of commercial innovation stemming from small companies, they are a vital source of wealth-generating new products, materials and processes. Many small companies working in this sector have great ideas, but lack the funds and facilities to enable them to carry out the important development and demonstration feasibility work required.

“We anticipate that the results of these feasibility projects will lead to commercial-scale activities within 1 to 2 years.”

Applications addressed by the feasibility studies may relate to, for example, novel bio-based products to improve health and nutrition, as well as energy and water usage, and bio-based chemicals and materials to make a wide range of products such as medical devices, paints and personal care items.

Due to the high quality of the proposals to be funded, it is expected that a high proportion of the SMEs leading the projects will succeed in demonstrating the technical feasibility of their ideas. These companies are then likely to seek additional investment, from the Technology Strategy Board or other sources, to demonstrate the technical and economic feasibility of their processes on a commercial scale.