The UK teams up with Norway to support biotechnology sector

Posted on 5 Jan 2012

The British and Norwegian governments are to work together to support nine new research and development projects in order to reduce the dependency upon oil.

The nine projects will create innovative processes to generate high-value chemicals through industrial biotechnology and bio-refining.

The Technology Strategy Board (TSB), which is funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), has offered £1.82m worth of grant funding to the nine UK-led projects, with four of these supported by Innovation Norway, which is providing an additional £400,000 to the Norwegian businesses that are taking part.

David Bott, director of innovation programmes at Technology Strategy Board (TSB)
David Bott, director of innovation programmes at Technology Strategy Board (TSB)

David Bott, director of innovation programmes at the TSB, 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 turn pilots into commercially viable processes.”

Commenting upon the partnership, Mr Bott said that UK organisations are enthusiastic to work with and partner with Norwegian companies, which he said “demonstrates that international collaboration can bring exciting project opportunities for UK business.”

The projects will look at how industrial biotechnology and/or biorefining 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.

Two of the four full-scale collaborative R&D projects will be led by Cambridge-based Chirotech Technology, in partnership with Biotica Technology. The projects will develop semi-synthetic drugs through strain engineering, fermentation and enhanced product isolation as well as the production of pharmaceutical intermediates using fermentation of genetically engineered microorganisms.

The other full scale projects will be led by Ingenza in partnership with Lucite International and Unilever with Borregaard and Croda.

The five feasibility projects will be led by Aquapharm Biodiscovery, Biocatalysts, Centre for Process Innovation, C-Tech Innovation and GlycoMar.

Innovation Norway’s involvement follows the signing in 2011 of an agreement between the UK and Norway that encourages projects incorporating industrial biotechnology and/or bio-refining between the two nations.

This new funding brings the total investment in R&D by the TSB in industrial biotechnology to make new or existing chemicals to £7 m since September 2009.

The World Wildlife Fund has estimated that industrial biotechnology can help to make the shift from a chemical industry based on oil to one based on renewable and biological substances, a change that could amount to a reduction of 2.5 bn tonnes of carbon emissions by 2030.