Scotland’s Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre hails £11 million commitment to future green skills

Scotland’s Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre (IBioIC) has awarded 15 new grants, marking a commitment of more than £11 million to future green skills since the facility’s inception in 2014.

A range of start-ups, small and medium-sized enterprises and larger companies will share a combined package of £2.8m from IBioIC and the UK-wide Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). The funding will allow pioneering research projects to employ the skills of PhD students over a four-year study programme.

The centre’s industry-led PhD programme focuses on giving students commercial and industrial experience alongside academic research. Students spend up to one year working directly in the industrial biotechnology community, with the opportunity to learn directly from experts in the field, build relationships and cultivate their own networks.

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The innovation centre and its partners will have supported more than 100 such students when the new cohort start in October 2021. Early participants have now progressed to related biotechnology roles.

The IBioIC was established in 2014 to stimulate growth of the industrial biotechnology sector in Scotland.

Among the latest set of projects is a bioeconomy initiative with the University of Edinburgh and IndiNature, an Edinburgh-based sustainable construction materials manufacturer. The firm has secured £104,000 for a doctoral research project, which will explore the use of agricultural waste as a feedstock for making unique materials to bind crop-based fibres together to make low-carbon building insulation.

Scott Simpson, chief executive of IndiNature, said: “There is growing demand for natural, plastic-free products that can be used to improve the sustainability of our built environment and we are turning that into a reality using locally-grown crops and bio-based materials.

“Having the support of a PhD student will be invaluable as we aim to scale-up our lab-based research and we are looking forward to working closely with future talent who will no doubt offer a fresh perspective.

“As well as the environmental benefit of our products, we are committed to making a positive impact on the communities we operate in, including support for the next generation of biotechnology experts.”

Ian Archer, technical director at IBioIC, said: “The industrial biotechnology community is growing at pace alongside the UK-wide drive for sustainability, and our collaborative training partnerships rightly aim to bring together industry and academia to support commercial development.

“The programme is carefully designed to help students enter the world of work, with commercial and business development modules that go beyond academic training to ensure students are industry-ready. We also endeavour to support students individually with a focus on personal development and wellbeing built into the programme, which is quite different to traditional PhD studies.

“The latest awards represent a significant milestone for the programme, with the combined project value now exceeding £11m. Once again, we had an overwhelmingly positive response from the industry to our latest call for projects, with a range of exciting areas of research that can underpin significant steps towards building a more sustainable and circular economy.”

The IBioIC was established in 2014 to stimulate growth of the industrial biotechnology sector in Scotland. The national plan for industrial biotechnology set a £900m turnover target to be achieved by 2025.

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