Industrial biotechnology “could add £400 million” to Scots economy

The microalgae needs only seawater, light and C02 to grow. Image: Proof Communication

The microalgae needs only seawater, light and C02 to grow. Image: Proof Communication

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Scottish researchers have discovered a beneficial carbohydrate in microalgae, which could allow natural resources to be included in the manufacturing of new chemicals and ingredients in a process known as industrial biotechnology.

The anti-viral and anti-inflammatory carbohydrate contained within the Prasinococcus capsulatus microalgae make it perfect for inclusion in the cosmetics industry, for products such as sunscreens, moisturisers and wound dressings.

Scottish innovators have discovered an anti-viral and antiinflammatory carbohydrate in microalgae, which is renewable and could feature in cosmetics products in as little as three years. Image: Proof Communication

Scottish innovators have discovered an anti-viral and antiinflammatory carbohydrate in microalgae, which is renewable and could feature in cosmetics products in as little as three years. Image: Proof Communication

A new company registered in Scotland, Prasinotech Ltd, will be the first algae refinery in the world built to manufacture the products. It’s expected that the active ingredients used by the business could have a combined annual value of £1 million in the third year of production, and Prasinotech aims to create 7 start-ups by 2020.

Unlike other cosmetic products, the ingredients are natural and are sustained by seawater, light and C02 during production. Completed products containing these ingredients could be available to consumers within as little as three years.

Roger Kilburn, CEO of IBioIC said: “Projects like this bring to life exactly what a difference IB can make. We can take something as simple as algae, which you’d find in a pond or the sea and create products with real healthcare benefits that are sustainable and have a high market value.

“Almost every market can use IB to create something new; it’s our job to match industry and academic partners to make this happen and speed up the process.”

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The research is the first in a series of projects, funded by the Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre (IBioIC), which highlight how industrial biotechnology the process of using natural resources to create new chemicals and ingredients, could increase the UK economy’s share of the predicted £365bn global IB market.

The IBioIC’s role in the industrial biotechnology sector puts it in contact with over 50 companies and 200 academics to increase the reach of the industry in Scotland, with an estimated £400m added to the Scottish economy alone in industrial biotechnology sales over the next four years.

IBioIC will be funding a further IB Accelerator Programme in association with Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise, which aims to support the development of new products and manufacturing processes in IB and make them an industrial reality.

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