Industrial biotechnology (IB) - the use of biological substances, systems and processes to produce materials, chemicals and energy - will play an essential part in the creation of a low-carbon knowledge-based economy in the UK. Applying the use of biological systems including microorganisms, terrestrial plants and algae, the KTN's IB sector incorporates many aspects of "white biotechnology" such as:
- Biocatalysis, & biotransformations for the chemical industries
- Renewable resources & sustainable technologies for a low carbon world
- Driving the transition to a bio-based economy.
- Natural products & metabolic pathway engineering for novel, functional bioactives.
Applications of IB
IB is a platform technology rather than a market sector and as such it has applications in a variety of industries ranging from biorefining to produce bulk chemicals, through speciality products for cosmetics and nutritional applications to pharmaceutical intermediates - to name just a few.
Whether the application of IB is for a shorter synthetic route, a more environmentally friendly process using lower temperatures and pressures, chiral synthesis, a process to make a natural-labelled product, chemical conversions of complex molecules or synthesis of novel structures the main output is likely to be a more cost effective process providing commercial advantage.
The UK's IB Strategy
In 2009 the industry-led report to the Government, IB 2025, and the subsequent Government response outlined a strategy for IB in the UK which is being put into action now through the Industrial Biotechnology Special Interest Group (IB SIG). This report identified that the return on any investment of money and effort in IB - the 'size of the prize' - will depend on several factors, including (but not restricted to) the prices and availability of petrochemical feedstocks. However, robust estimates of the global IB market by 2025 range from £150 billion to £360 billion; similar estimates for the UK IB market range from £4 billion to £12 billion.
Companies wishing to find out how IB might help their business can receive advice from Dr Yvonne Armitage (firstname.lastname@example.org) who can arrange to provide information or a visit as part of the IB SIG activities.