The British and Norwegian governments are to work together to support nine new research and development projects that will create innovative processes to generate high-value chemicals through industrial biotechnology and bio-refining.
The Technology Strategy Board has offered grant funding totalling £1.82m to the nine UK-led projects and four of these will also be supported by Innovation Norway, which is providing additional funding of £400,000 to the Norwegian businesses that are taking part.
David Bott, director of innovation programmes at the Technology Strategy Board, said: "Industrial biotechnology can help the chemical industry move away from a dependency on oil to a future based on renewable and biological substances. Through these projects we are helping innovative British businesses to develop early-stage biotechnology projects into pilots and to turn pilots into commercially viable processes."
"The enthusiasm shown by UK organisations to work internationally and, in this case, partner with Norwegian companies, demonstrates that international collaboration can bring exciting project opportunities for UK business," he added.
The four full-scale collaborative R&D projects will be led by Chirotech Technology (two projects), Ingenza and Unilever. The five feasibility projects will be led by Aquapharm Biodiscovery, Biocatalysts, Centre for Process Innovation, C-Tech Innovation and GlycoMar.
The projects will look at how industrial biotechnology and/or bio-refining can be competitively applied to the production of high-value chemicals and will see collaboration between industrial biotechnology developers, higher education institutions and the chemicals sector.
Innovation Norway's involvement follows the signing in 2011 of an agreement between the UK and Norway that encourages UK-Norwegian projects incorporating industrial biotechnology and/or bio-refining. This new funding brings the total investment by the Technology Strategy Board since September 2009 in R&D using industrial biotechnology to make new or existing chemicals to £7m, in 42 projects. These projects may use demonstration facilities in the UK, such as the newly-opened High Value Manufacturing Catapult centre.
We believe that industrial biotechnology can contribute significantly to the shift from a chemical industry based on oil to one based on renewable and biological substances. Industrial biotechnology can help to reduce carbon emissions - the World Wildlife Fund estimated in 2009 that this could amount to a reduction of 2.5 billion tonnes by 2030.