Decade of support boosts Scotland’s bioeconomy with £35 million of innovation investment

Mark Bustard, Chief Executive of Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre (IBioIC)

THE Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre (IBioIC) has supported the growth of Scotland’s industrial biotechnology sector by helping it to attract £35 million of additional funding for research and development, according to new figures revealed to mark its tenth anniversary today (11 March).

IBioIC has supported more than 260 start-ups, small businesses, and established companies to bring bio-based processes and products to market, helping to create a thriving bioeconomy in Scotland. Building on £6.8 million of funding from the innovation centre, 215 projects have generated more than five times as much in additional investment from third-party sources.

Industrial biotechnology encompasses a range of techniques and processes, supporting the creation of more sustainable materials, consumer goods, and pharmaceuticals through the use of naturally sourced alternatives to petrochemicals. It also aims to maximise the use of by-products, and minimise waste, from existing industrial processes.

To commemorate its tenth year, the innovation centre is hosting a reception at the Scottish Parliament as part of Bioeconomy Week and will also mark a decade of progress at its annual conference at Glasgow’s Technology and Innovation Centre on 13 and 14 March. Speakers include Teen Tech charity founder and TV personality Maggie Philbin, and the Scottish Government’s chief entrepreneurial adviser Mark Logan.

As a direct result of the innovation centre’s activity to date, the Scottish industrial biotechnology sector is exceeding growth expectations and is on track to achieve associated turnover of £1.2 billion by 2025, in line with the more ambitious target set out in an updated version of the National Plan for Industrial Biotechnology. The revised plan also sets a target of having 220 companies operating in the sector, supporting 4,000 jobs.

In January, Scotland’s First Minister announced that IBioIC had secured a long-term investment commitment from the Scottish Funding Council to continue the development of the bioeconomy and support Scotland’s transition to net zero.

Mark Bustard, chief executive of IBioIC, said: “Over the past decade, we have seen Scotland evolve into a leading innovation ecosystem – and we have the potential to become the go-to destination for scaling up bioeconomy businesses and manufacturing bio-based products and materials.

“IBioIC’s contribution has been central to the growth of the sector, and this is reflected in the projects we have supported, skills programmes delivered, and initiatives created, such as the Biotech Innovators accelerator for early-stage companies. Generating further impact will remain a key focus as we move forward. We will build on our efforts to support young businesses and entrepreneurs to develop more sustainable products through industrial biotechnology and help them secure the investment they need to take these ideas to a commercial stage.”

IBioIC’s membership network recently hit 200 companies, with LiYF Bioethanol taking it over the milestone figure. The Switzerland-headquartered start-up is exploring advanced second-generation bioethanol, produced from agricultural waste, that could reduce dependency on fossil fuels and contribute to net zero targets by unlocking the production of new biomolecules to replace fossil sources in the petrochemical industry.

It recently opened a facility in Ayrshire, with the ambition of establishing a pilot plant in Scotland for potential end users to validate the technology and trial the fuel.

The innovation centre’s network is designed to connect industry with Scotland’s academic expertise to support proof-of-concept projects. It also provides access to a range of support schemes for start-ups, skills programmes for developing talent, and access to bioprocess scale-up facilities – FlexBio and RapidBio. 

Hangama Wanner, founder and chief executive of LiYF Bioethanol, said: “Joining IBioIC’s network has provided us with opportunities to meet new partners from around the world that we likely wouldn’t have met otherwise, as well as access to valuable support from the innovation centre team. The next step in our journey involves expanding our global footprint, and Scotland’s thriving tech and start-up community really appealed to us as the next destination for driving this forward. We’re looking forward to developing our relationships with other IBioIC members and collaborating with academics and businesses that share our vision for expanding the scope of sustainable energy.” 

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