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Associate feature: Prioritising biotechnology to grow a green, sustainable economy

Associate feature: Prioritising biotechnology to grow a green, sustainable economy

The idea of a net zero carbon emissions and zero waste economy isn’t as far-fetched as some may think.

The key promise of a bio-based economy is we can grow the sources of raw materials for every day products.

Industrial Biotechnology (IB) is one of the many faces of innovation in the life sciences world. IB offers sustainable, scalable solutions to the current environmental challenges facing many industries.

The Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre (IBioIC) has over 120 member organisations, working across Scotland, the UK and Europe to find innovative solutions to modern problems.

Our industry members range from medical biotechnology companies working on protein production through to those developing green solutions in bioenergy and biofuel, utilising agriculture, marine and forestry derived materials.

IBioIC supports efforts that are as diverse as taking waste from shellfish and using it to develop sustainable, biodegradable packaging, to fermenting sugar in bioprocesses for the production of high value products like pharmaceuticals and sustainable materials.

Prioritising biotechnology will support the transition from using petrochemicals as the main source of our energy and chemicals, which is something we must do if we are to meet the ambitious net-zero carbon targets in Scotland by 2045 and 2050 in the UK.

For this to be economically viable and attractive in the short term there must be proactive and supportive Government policy to propel industry towards solutions provided by the bio-based industries.

Repurposing traditional ‘waste products’ is another great use of IB. Some of our members have developed technology that can repurpose waste from industrial and agricultural processes.

The sources and uses are wide-ranging, the likes of salmon feed can be made from algae grown on whisky co-products to reduce carbon emissions. One industry’s waste is another industry’s gold. This approach contributes to growth of a circular economy.

As we have recently learned, supply chains are complex and often fragile. In some sectors there is an over-reliance on imports. Reshoring supply chains is something IB can support.

Taking ethanol production for fuel as an example: Scotland imports over 50 million litres annually to blend into petrol to reduce emissions. That ethanol comes entirely from outside the UK, and demand will more than double soon as we introduce E10 petrol containing 10 per cent ethanol. Post-pandemic, we need to build security into key supply chains as part of a sustainable future.

We can grow the crops, convert the sugar they contain, and ferment that sugar into ethanol all within 30 miles of Scotland’s chemical industry in Grangemouth. IBioIC is working with key stakeholders to turn this idea into a reality.

A sugar supply is the foundation of a bio-based manufacturing cluster in Scotland. We can future-proof our manufacturing industries as part of the post-Covid-19 green recovery by embracing scalable biotechnology, which will be just the start of a journey creating economic opportunities, from agriculture to high-value manufacturing.

 However, difficulty for companies often arises in the jump from R&D to manufacturing. If we are going to grow our industry and meet environmental targets, we must go beyond supporting innovation and development, and incentivise companies to transition to manufacturing through supporting investment in manufacturing infrastructure.

IBioIC has worked tirelessly to put biotechnology front and centre through the building of a carefully cultivated network, bringing together government, industry and academia.

With the right infrastructure, policy and funding environment, we can build a successful bio-based economy that will provide solutions for our clean, low carbon agenda. Biotechnology has a lot to offer in creating a sustainable bioeconomy equipped for the future, and innovation is key.

 

Mark Bustard, CEO, Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre

This piece was sponsored by Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre

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