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Refreshing the Strategic Roadmap for Synthetic Biology in the UK

Note: A refresh of the 2012 Roadmap, the UK Synthetic Biology Strategic Plan 2016 — Biodesign for the Bioeconomy, was published on 24th February 2016.

A Strategic Roadmap for Synthetic Biology in the UK - 2012


A strategic roadmap for synthetic biology was published in July 2012 with the key purpose of developing 'a roadmap that defines the likely timeframe and actions required to establish a world leading Synthetic Biology industry within the UK.' 

The roadmap, produced by an independent panel of experts for the government's Department for Business Innovation and Skills, sets out a shared vision for realising the potential of synthetic biology in the UK.

Core themes

Five core themes for the roadmap emerged from this work. They were:

  1. Foundational science and engineering: the need for sufficient capabilities for the UK to maintain a leading edge

  2. Continuing responsible research and innovation: including the need for awareness, training and adherence to regulatory frameworks

  3. Developing technology for commercial use

  4. Applications and markets: identifying growth markets and developing applications

  5. International cooperation

Key recommendations 

To achieve this, the roadmap outlines five key recommendations:

  • Invest in a network of multidisciplinary centres to establish an outstanding UK synthetic biology resource.

  • Build a skilled, energised and well-funded UK-wide synthetic biology community [for example, via the Synthetic Biology Special Interest Group].

  • Invest to accelerate technology responsibly to market.

  • Assume a leading international role.

  • Establish a leadership council

Implementing the recommendations

Some of the recommendations made by the Roadmap are already in place, including the Synthetic Biology Special Interest Group (SynBio SIG); funding opportunities, for instance the SPARK Awards for Synthetic Biology and the Technology Strategy Board's (now known as Innovate UK) £6.5M Feasibility Studies Competition which launched in October 2012; and increased consideration of responsible innovation factors in the funding process. The co-founders are working to ensure that the projects funded perform their activities within the principles of responsible innovation. More information about the SynBio SIG and these funding opportunities can be found within the pages of this group.

Moreover, ~ £20 million of funding has already been made available to support implementation of the Roadmap through a number of initiatives by the BBSRC, EPSRC and Innovate UK. 

Further information

The roadmap report can be downloaded from our document library or by clicking on the link below.

Two workshops, held in March 2012, provided significant contributions to the development of the Roadmap. A high-level summary of the outputs derived directly from these workshops is captured in the A3 Schematic linked below. This illustrates both the breadth of issues considered and corresponding timescales that could apply.  It does not represent a formal plan (for which many other ongoing mechanisms apply), but underpins the need to address a wide range of issues in parallel, and the need to adopt a multi-year perspective, as formulated in the Roadmap.

UK Strategic Plan for Synthetic Biology 2016

Click on the image above to download the UK Synthetic Biology Strategic Plan 2016

Download the 2012 Roadmap

Lionel Clarke, Chairman of the UK Synthetic Biology Roadmap Coordination Group, said:

"Synthetic biology has the potential to deliver significant benefits, addressing important challenges and generating exciting opportunities for growth - but much work needs to be done and has to be done responsibly. Engaging the synthetic biology community in shaping this roadmap has contributed a first step towards realising this potential, through building a shared vision.......Further initiatives, such as the recent formation of a special interest group, will continue to stimulate interest and facilitate cooperation."