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School-based Projects Aim to Promote the Understanding of Industrial Biotechnology

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The National Non-Food Crops Centre, Technology Strategy Board and Scottish Enterprise are launching two Challenges: the Biofuels Challenge and the Biorefineries Challenge that will bring industrial biotechnology into the classroom.

Topical, controversial and rich in links to the STEM curriculum, these two activities gives teachers the resources to bring some real life science into lessons.

The Biofuels Challenge is for pupils aged 9-12. This challenge is practical based, with pupils growing plants to make and test their own biofuels. The Biorefineries Challenge is for pupils aged 13-16. This activity involves business and science, with pupils having to design a biorefinery for venture capitalists. A biorefinery uses plants to make a range of fuels and chemicals. The competition begins in May and the winning design will be selected in October. Both Challenges come with a rich range of on-line resources.

Industrial or white biotechnology uses enzymes and micro-organisms to make chemicals, flavours, fragrances, detergents and medicines. Industrial biotechnology has the potential to replace many products currently made from petroleum with products from plants, which are renewable. If we are able to do this we can make the petroleum supplies last longer and also reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions that contribute to the greenhouse effect and climate change.