Biotech sector catalysed by £1.7m Edinburgh facility

A £1.7 million centre offering large-scale bioprocessing facilities has opened in Edinburgh, the first facility of its kind in the UK and aiming to help businesses test and commercialise their concepts.

IBioIC technical director Ian Archer demonstrates equipment at FlexBio. Picture: Contributed

Known as FlexBio, the Flexible Downstream Bioprocessing Centre at Heriot-Watt University will focus on research and projects that are ready to “scale up”, enabling them to carry out testing while saving on the large expense of a pilot scale operation, according to the Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre (IBioIC), which is behind the new facility.

The organisation said FlexBio means firms no longer need to outsource abroad as has often been the case, and even offers many services that cannot be found elsewhere in Europe.

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Ian Archer, technical director at IBioIC, said opening the facility comes after “an intensive build project over the past two years”.

He added: “The centre opens a wealth of possibility for industry in Scotland and the wider UK, and we would like to encourage applications to use the centre from every sector.

“There will be a technical team available to help non-experts fully utilise the centre, so we hope to see some truly unique and cutting-edge projects come from the facility.”

IBioIC said there has already been interest in using the centre, which will be able to cover all types of industrial bioprocessing, for projects covering everything from the likes of therapeutic antibodies to skin care products and bio fuels, and its launch comes as industrial biotechnology is set to bring £900m to the Scottish economy by 2025.

IBioIC added that the launch of FlexBio comes after it recently opened the Rapid Bioprocess Prototyping Centre at the University of Strathclyde. The two centres, which attracted a total investment of £2.7m from the Scottish Funding Council, Heriot-Watt and the University of Strathclyde, are to support the £30m research programme planned by IBioIC over the next five years.

The Scottish Funding Council launched its innovation-centre programme in 2012 “to support transformational collaboration between universities and businesses” and backing it with £120m in funding.

The Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC), for example, said earlier this month that in a six-month project it was to examine the potential for ultrasound to keep farmed salmon healthy and increase harvest volumes.