Plans to boost Scotland’s ‘bio-revolution’ secure seed funding

Sir Jim McDonald, principal and vice-chancellor of the University of Strathclyde, said the move 'underlines the importance of Scotland's burgeoning biotechnology'. Picture: John Devlin
Sir Jim McDonald, principal and vice-chancellor of the University of Strathclyde, said the move 'underlines the importance of Scotland's burgeoning biotechnology'. Picture: John Devlin
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Ambitious plans to boost the economic impact of Scotland’s burgeoning industrial biotech sector through the creation of a specialist centre have received early-stage funding.

The project, submitted by a consortium led by the Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre (IBioIC) and the University of Strathclyde, has been granted £50,000 to develop a full-stage bid, which could lead to a multi-million pound investment.

The proposal aims to support the Scottish “bio-revolution” and accelerate the development of biology-based products for a range of industries, from health to agriculture and the marine sector.

It is one of 24 shortlisted submissions across the UK to be granted early-stage funding from UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) Strength in Places Fund.

The proposal will now be developed into a full bid to be submitted before the end of the year. Four to eight of the strongest final proposals are set to receive between £10 million and £50m from UKRI to carry out their projects.

The Scottish bid includes plans to create a Centre of Excellence for Engineering Biology at the University of Edinburgh, with an incubator to support new biotechs.

It also proposes extending and enhancing the bioprocess technology scale-up facilities provided by IBioIC and details plans to create an industry partnership and skills hub, which would enable companies to connect and collaborate with other UK centres of excellence and provide access to skills training.

The consortium features collaborative partners from academia and industry, such as GSK and Ineos.

Dame Anne Glover, chair of the governing board of the IBioIC, said: “With Strength in Places funding, we aim to boost the economic impact of the vibrant industrial biotechnology sector in Scotland’s Central Belt.

“We will fast-track the pathway from research to commercial deployment by filling gaps in the existing innovation system to unlock further economic impacts from the ‘bio-revolution’ – developing biology-based products and platforms.”

Sir Jim McDonald, principal and vice-chancellor of the University of Strathclyde, added “Today’s announcement underlines the importance of Scotland’s burgeoning biotechnology sector to the economy.”

This comes as it emerged that drug discovery firm Exscientia, a University of Dundee spin-out, has entered a three-year partnership with global biopharma group Celgene.

The tie-up includes a $25m (£19m) upfront payment, eligibility for “substantial milestones” based on the success of the programme and tiered royalties on net sales of any resulting products.