New strategic approaches to industrial biotechnology
Industrial Biotechnology (IB) is a set of cross-disciplinary technologies that use biological resources for producing and processing materials and chemicals for non-food applications. These resources can be derived from the tissues, enzymes and genes of plants, algae, marine life, fungi and micro-organisms. BBSRC has identified IB in its Strategic Plan as a high level strategic priority area for the next five years as a way of helping to reduce dependency on petrochemicals and helping the UK to become a low carbon economy, so contributing to the targets for reducing emission of green-house gases. Initial analysis of BBSRC's research and training portfolio suggests a need to build capacity and capability to undertake basic and strategic research in IB in the future (see news in related links).
BBSRC aims to support the development of new sustainable approaches to the generation of materials and chemicals and their incorporation into manufacturing, using renewable resources rather than fossil hydrocarbon sources and utilising biological processes. In order for this to be realised in the future, BBSRC will need to contribute to the following:
- Increasing the UK's capacity to undertake basic and strategic research in IB through increasing the critical mass of trained staff in UK universities and institutes
- Increasing the opportunities for collaboration with industry, allowing the translation of basic discoveries ultimately into new products and processes
Research grant proposals
UK industry requires more basic and strategic research to underpin the development of innovative manufacturing routes to prepare high-value chemicals, industrial chemicals or platform chemicals from renewable feedstocks. Research grant proposals should therefore address the following areas:
- New approaches to support the application of whole cell and enzymatic systems to the production of high-value chemicals (including recombinant DNA biologics and antimicrobial compounds), industrial chemicals and platform chemicals. Proposals should involve the application of systems and synthetic biology approaches to reach these goals. They may also include the incorporation of existing approaches drawn from other disciplines such as chemistry, engineering and mathematics.
- Innovative approaches to develop new biocatalytic entities and pathways, (for example in the production of specific chemicals from biomass through novel pathways and prevention of the inactivation of the biocatalyst/pathway by toxic products).
- New approaches to increase the production of high value chemicals from plants, and to improve their "processability", with a particular focus on the translation of fundamental plant science (including knowledge from model plants such as Arabidopsis) into more industrially-relevant non-food plants.