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Networks in Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy (BBSRC NIBB)

BBSRC, with support from EPSRC, have committed £18 million to fund 13 unique collaborative Networks in Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy (BBSRC NIBB).

The BBSRC NIBB will foster collaborations between academia, industry, policy makers and NGOs in order to find new approaches to tackle research challenges, translate research and deliver key benefits in IBBE. Each network has a particular focus area, mainly within the UK, but with interest to build international links.

These multidisciplinary networks will drive new ideas to harness the potential of biological resources for producing and processing materials, biopharmaceuticals, chemicals and energy. The Networks provide proof of concept funding, Business Interaction Vouchers and are open to new members.

The BBSRC NIBB, along with the IB Catalyst, form the central part of the BBSRC's strategy to support the development of Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy (IBBE) as a key component of the UK bioeconomy. The Networks will help to provide sustainable processes for producing bio-based alternatives to products which currently rely on petrochemicals.

This page will be updated as the BBSRC NIBB develop.

The 13 BBSRC NIBB are:

  1. ADNet: Anaerobic Digestion Network.
  2. Biocatnet: Network in Biocatalyst Discovery, Development and Scale-Up.
  3. BioProNET: Bioprocessing Network.
  4. C1NET: Chemicals from C1 Gas.
  5. CBMNet: Crossing biological membranes.
  6. FoodWasteNet: Food Processing Waste and By-Products Utilisation Network.
  7. HVCfP: High Value Chemicals from Plants Network.
  8. IBCarb: Glycoscience Tools for Biotechnology and Bioenergy.
  9. LBNet: Lignocellulosic Biorefinery Network.
  10. Metals in Biology: The elements of Biotechnology and Bioenergy.
  11. NPRONET: Natural Products Discovery and Bioengineering Network.
  12. P2P: A Network of Integrated Technologies: Plants to Products.
  13. PHYCONET: unlocking the IB potential of microalgae.

ADNet: Anaerobic Digestion Network

ADNet website

Twitter: @AD_NIBB

Professor Charles Banks, University of Southampton, and Professor Orkun Soyer, The University of Warwick.

The Network addresses scientific and technical challenges in the development of anaerobic biotechnology, drawing on the expertise of leading academics underpinned by new tools and concepts. As well as enhancing the performance of anaerobic digestion (AD) as a second generation bioenergy process, these open up new areas of application in the creation of value-added bio-based products, widening the process scope to a biorefinery. Bio-molecular tools open up the possibility of improved diagnostics and advanced on-line process control, topics of immediate interest to industry.

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Biocatnet: Network in Biocatalyst Discovery, Development and Scale-Up

biocatnet website


Professor Nicholas Turner, The University of Manchester, and Professor John Ward from University College London

Access to a broad range of biocatalysts for R&D is widely recognised as rate limiting in the uptake of IB, particularly by the chemical industry where there is desire to replace existing processes with those based upon sustainable feedstocks and catalysts. The Network will provide significant long-term benefits to a substantial percentage of the IB community: seeking to discover, develop and make available a broader range of biocatalysts which can be screened and applied by the end-users. The Network with have three main themes:

  • Biocatalyst discovery and screening
  • Biocatalyst development and optimisation
  • Biocatalyst scale-up

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BioProNET: Bioprocessing Network

BioProNet website

Twitter: @biopronetuk

Professor Christopher Smales, University of Kent, and Professor Alan Dickson, The University of Manchester

This Network in the field of bioprocessing and biologics, engages academics, industrialists and other special interest groups to accelerate innovation and deliver change in this area. This will ensure that the UK academic research agenda is world-leading, industrially-relevant and recognised globally as a leading network in the sector and the go-to place for collaborative research. The Network will thus establish an internationally-recognized, sustainable and integrated cross-disciplinary network able to address major research challenges in the area of bioprocessing and non-therapeutic (e.g. diagnostics, drug screening, crystallization/structural studies) biologics.

This network is co-funded with the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

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C1NET: Chemicals from C1 Gas

C1net website

Twitter: @C1net_NIBB

Professor Nigel Minton, The University of Nottingham and Professor David Fell, Oxford Brookes University

A Network which will create a vibrant community of UK academics tasked with unravelling the biological, chemical and process engineering aspects of gas fermentation and to steer translational outputs towards commercial application. The network will provide the 'glue' to bring together a UK-based cadre of biologists, chemists, computational modellers/mathematicians and process engineers to better understand and thence exploit gas fermentation processes for translation into industry.

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CBMNet: Crossing biological membranes

CBM Net website

Twitter: @CBMNet_NIBB

Professor Jeff Green, The University of Sheffield, and Professor Gavin Thomas, The University of York

Moving molecules across membranes is a barrier to improving many existing Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy (IBBE) processes that utilize cell factories. With the advent of synthetic biology, identifying transport systems for integration into chassis organisms will be crucial in expanding the economic and social impacts of IBBE. The motivation for this network is that understanding the mechanisms by which substances are transported into, within, and out of cell factories will lead to the development of enabling technologies that are crucial for the future development of almost all cell-based IBBE applications. The goal is to develop innovative solutions and technologies to overcome yield restrictions due to inefficient transport systems in existing IBBE processes and to embed consideration of transport systems in future IBBE activities.

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FoodWasteNet: Food Processing Waste and By-Products Utilisation Network

FoodWasteNet website

Twitter: @foodwastenet

Professor Dimitris Charalampopoulos, University of Reading, and Professor Keith Waldron, the Quadram Institute.

The aims of the Network will be to foster the interaction between researchers and industrialists in order to realise the potential of using food waste and by-products to produce chemicals and biomaterials with market potential. For this, the Network will identify suitable feedstocks, novel products and product applications, and develop scalable technologies based on industrial biotechnology and process engineering for their sustainable production.

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HVCfP: High Value Chemicals from Plants Network

High Value Chemicals from Plants website

Twitter: @HVCfP_net

Professor Ian Graham, The University of York, and Professor Anne Osbourn, the John Innes Centre

The High Value Chemicals from Plants Network aims to develop the UK as a leading producer of high value chemicals from plants. Our focus is identifying novel products, and optimising and developing both feedstocks and processes in planta. The Network provides leadership to address key technology challenges limiting the development of high value chemical based products from plants; covering the entire discovery, development and delivery chain for high value chemicals. HVCfP membership is free and offers workshops, training, proof-of-concept funds and business interaction vouchers; all activities aim to develop and build research consortia.

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IBCarb: Glycoscience Tools for Biotechnology and Bioenergy

IBCarb website

Twitter: @ibcarb

Professor Sabine Flitsch, The University of Manchester and Professor Rob Field, the John Innes Centre

Carbohydrates constitute the largest source of biomass on Earth and their exploitation for novel applications in biomaterials, energy, food and health will be critical in moving away from dependence on hydrocarbons to develop sustainable biotechnologies and reduce GHG emissions, ensuring both energy and food security. The analysis, synthesis and biosynthesis of carbohydrates and their modification to industrial products are central challenges in both industrial biotechnology and bioenergy. Great demand and opportunities are possible in diverse areas such as biopharmaceuticals (8 out of 10 top selling drugs worldwide are glycoproteins), foods (prebiotics designed for the human gut microbiota), antimicrobials (targeting cell surface recognition and biosynthesis), materials (from biorenewable polysaccharides) or energy (digesting the indigestible).

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LBNet: Lignocellulosic Biorefinery Network

LBNet website

Twitter: @LBNet_NIBB

Professor Simon McQueen-Mason, The University of York, and Professor Tim Bugg, University of Warwick

Plant biomass is currently the only renewable and sustainable non-food feedstock available on a scale commensurate with current use of petroleum. Lignocellulosic biomass is a rich source of fixed carbon incorporated into a range of polymers comprising mainly polysaccharides and lignin. Lignocellulosic plant biomass also contains a wide range of less abundant chemicals and polymers including sterols, waxes and fatty acids. Thus, this non-food feedstock has the potential to provide a wide range of bulk and speciality chemicals that can serve as the basis for producing most of the products we currently obtain from petroleum. The Lignocellulosic Biorefinery Network (LBNet) will establish a cohesive multi-disciplinary network of researchers and stakeholders with interests in lignocellulose-derived biorenewables in order to overcome fragmentation of the research community in this area and develop systems based approaches to move this area forward.

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Metals in Biology: The elements of Biotechnology and Bioenergy

Metals in Biology

Twitter: @MetalsBBSRCNIBB

Professor Nigel Robinson, Durham University, and Professor Martin Warren, University of Kent

The prevalence of metallo-enzymes means that success in synthetic biology may pivot upon an ability to engineer metal-supply inside microorganisms, plants and animal cells. Network members will work with the bio-processing sector to optimise metal-availability, collaborate with multiple companies to engineer synthetic metallo-enzymes and will optimise metal-uptake and assimilation into biomolecules required for bio-energy production, environmental bioremediation, biomedicine and synthesis of high value industrial feed-stocks. There are also opportunities to produce antimicrobials which disrupt bacterial and/or fungal metal-handling systems and to enhance the production of metal-related nutritional supplements.

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NPRONET: Natural Products Discovery and Bioengineering Network

NPRONET website


Professor Jason Micklefield, The University of Manchester, and Professor Barrie Wilkinson, the John Innes Centre

Secondary metabolites produced by microorganisms and plants have inspired the development of leading pharmaceuticals including anticancer, immunosuppressive, cholesterol-lowering agents as well as most of the antibiotics in clinical use today. NPRONET will integrate genomics data and utilise systems/synthetic biology tools in order to discover new natural products and to guide the bioengineering of natural product scaffolds for therapeutic, agricultural and other applications including more efficient and diverse routes for the production of fine and commodity chemicals. A key goal of NPRONET will be to devise methods for activating unproductive biosynthetic pathways to provide the quantities of natural products needed for further development. In addition, NPRONET will utilise the expanding mechanistic and structural knowledge of biosynthetic enzymes to develop new strategies for re-programming biosynthetic pathways.

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P2P: A Network of Integrated Technologies: Plants to Products

P2P website

Twitter: @P2PNiBB

Professor David Leak, University of Bath and Dr Joe Gallagher, Aberystwyth University, Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS)

The Network will focus on the conversion of plant material, including agricultural by-products and agro-industrial co-products to chemicals and materials. The aim is to overcome barriers to biorefining of feedstocks by optimisation of multi-stream processes through integration of disciplines and exploitation of emerging technologies. We believe that the route to tackling current technical and commercial bottlenecks in developing a sustainable process for producing chemicals from biomass based renewables lies in effective communication between disciplines.

This network is co-funded with the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

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PHYCONET: unlocking the IB potential of microalgae

PhyCoNET website

Twitter: @PHYCONET

Dr Saul Purton, University College London, and Dr Michele Stanley, SAMS

Eukaryotic and prokaryotic microalgae are diverse photosynthetic microorganisms that have considerable potential as industrial biotechnology (IB) platforms for a wide range of natural and engineered bio-products, from bioplastics and biofuels to high value bioactives. However, microalgal IB is an immature field that requires step-changing advances in algal biology, genetic engineering, cultivation at scale and downstream processing. The PHYCONET network will bringing together the UK algal biosciences research community, businesses operating in the IB sector, and other stakeholders to create the critical mass of expertise, effort and focus needed to achieve the step-change and make the UK a leading player in algal biotechnology. The network will limit its remit to high-value products produced by microalgae in closed photobioreactors, since industrial and public acceptance will occur most rapidly through clear demonstrations that microalgae can be viable platforms for small-scale production of high-value commodities.

NIBB report on the IB landscape

The Industrial Biotechnology Landscape Report: UK Industrial Biotechnology Framework and Strategy, sets out a series of recommendations designed to make the UK a world leader in industrial biotechnology and create a more sustainable and prosperous economy. The IB Landscape report was commissioned by four BBSRC NIBB and completed by economics consultants RSM. The new report assesses the importance of IB for the UK economy; provides a critical analysis of IB in the UK, relative to competitor countries; and identifies the opportunities and threats to the sector to produce evidence-based recommendations designed to strengthen the UK's IB position.


Chloë Heywood

01793 413337


Rod Westrop

01793 413332