What do we hope to achieve?
The objectives of the ABSIG are:
To ensure that project developers fully understand the environmental implications of any planned algal commercialization activity in the fields of bioenergy and commodity chemicals
To connect academia and industry in developing the evidence base for the sustainable production of algal products
To help UK businesses operating in the fields of algal bioenergy or using algal-derived products, to profit and grow through new biosciences-inspired innovation
The key anticipated outcome of the AB-SIG is the generation of opportunities for the research community to focus on developing the evidence base to inform decisions on, for example:
the best algal feedstock for the UK
the most appropriate locations for and environmental implications of macro- and micro-algae production
predictive modelling of the implications for the environment of scaling up macro- and micro-algae production
Critically, the network enables early evaluation of the environmental and economic impact of algal bioenergy and biochemical production through development of a 'sustainability framework' using analogues developed for terrestrial bioenergy deployments. The network will also ensure close engagement with technological developments in this area.
An advanced or third generation biofuel
Innovate UK (formerly known as the Technology Strategy Board) published their Biosciences strategy in October 2009 which has three priority areas: genomics; industrial biotechnology; agriculture and good (agrifood).
The strategy states that they "will invest to support and encourage: technologies that enable advanced generation biofuels".
Algal bioenergy is often referred to as an advanced or third generation biofuel. The economic potential of using algal biomass as a feedstock for liquid biofuels has yet to be realised in a commercial context. There are a number of technological innovations that will be required before this can be achieved; however, economic opportunities exist today for the manufacture of high value chemicals (e.g. carrotonoids, polyunsaturated fatty acids, bioactives) and energy products (e.g. aviation fuels) from algal biomass.
Innovate UK will partner this activity with the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) through the Bioscience & Biotechnology Community of the Knowledge Transfer Network.