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Design4Life: How the New Trends in Health, Food and Biotech are Changing our Lives

With the world’s population of 7.2 billion projected to reach 9 billion by 2050, this rapid growth in the occupancy of our planet is creating unprecedented challenges in the management of essential services and resources that support basic human living.

As first to speak at the Knowledge Transfer Network’s (KTN) Design4Life industry workshop, KTN’s Head of Design Beatrice Rogers was keen to frame the role design can play in finding solutions to such challenges. Design equips people to think beyond the present and into the future, she said. The design skillset can be highly effective when used to embed values of sustainability and resource efficiency within the innovation process. The best design, Rogers also emphasised, was able to balance the tendency for too much ‘tech push’ with a more human-centred approach.

By way of showcasing how commercial success can be integrated with – while also promoting – ecological thinking and behaviour, delegates were shown two company presentations. Business Development Manager Arthur Biron explained how, by using natural fibres extracted from the waste leaves of pineapple plants, Ananas Anam Ltd is developing a new alternative to leather called Pinatex. Those familiar with the notion of ‘cradle to cradle’ design will understand it as a biomimetic approach to design, which seeks to create products and systems that are not only efficient but also waste free. “This is our inspiration”, Biron stated.

Making better use of resources was also the underlying theme of Dr Surinder Chahal’s talk. His company, speciality chemical manufacturer Croda, are involved in utilising plant cell culture to procure the chemicals they need. Focusing on the company’s cosmetics range, Surinder explained how through the process of callogenesis an entire cell line can be cultured from a single leaf. For example, the extraction of key ingredient, echinacoside, from the plant usually requires a three-year soil cultivation of echinacea angustifolia before harvesting. However, since 2012 Croda has developed a ‘biotechnology’ method of obtaining echinacoside, which has resulted in significant savings for both water and land use.

Finally, delegates heard from Dr Fungay Chidothe from the Cell Therapy Catapult (CTC). Supported by Innovate UK, the CTC’s mission is to drive the growth of the industry by helping cell therapy organisations across the world translate early-stage research into commercially viable and investable therapies. Core to its current programme, Chidothe said, is a £55m state-of-the-art cell therapy manufacturing centre due to open in Stevenage in 2017. With the UK already strongly positioned for early clinical phase manufacturing, this large-scale capacity centre will play a key role in driving the growth of a UK-based global industry.


This article was written by KTN Knowledge Transfer Manager – Creative, Digital & Design Richard Booth 

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Webinar on funding opportunities for Industrial Biotech & SynBio

This KTN webinar provided an update on the upcoming funding opportunities for industrial biotechnology & synthetic biology, with particular focus on the remit of each competition and where applications are likely to fit best. 

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