£6.5m investment to stimulate growth in synthetic biology

£6.5m investment to stimulate growth in synthetic biology

24 May 2012

The Government is to boost innovation and stimulate growth in a key emerging technology by investing up to £6.5 million to encourage businesses to explore new industrial applications for synthetic biology.

Through grants for feasibility studies, the funding aims to demonstrate the feasibility of using synthetic biology in a commercial setting and highlight the opportunities for UK industry created by technological advancements in synthetic biology.

The initiative is funded by the Technology Strategy Board, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), and is part of the Technology Strategy Board’s programme for emerging technologies and industries. 

Synthetic biology is an emerging, multidisciplinary approach at the intersection of engineering, bioscience, chemistry, and information technology.  It aims to design and engineer novel biologically based parts, devices and systems, and redesign existing natural biological systems for useful purposes.

The global market for synthetic biology has been estimated at just over $10bn in 2016 (with a compound annual growth rate of 45% between 2011 and 2016) spread across a wide range of product areas.*   Synthetic biology has a broad range of potential applications across a variety of industrial sectors, from medicine to energy generation.  Whilst its emerging status leads many to propose exciting and radical possibilities, synthetic biology can also provide a significant number of nearer-term commercial opportunities.

Demonstration is a critical step that determines whether a technology will move from the scientifically possible to the technologically real.  The grant funding available through this competition will enable businesses to demonstrate the feasibility of applying synthetic biology to real commercial situations.  Projects will identify a commercial opportunity to which synthetic biology can be applied and test the feasibility through a programme of experimentation, aiming to acquire new knowledge in order to develop new products or to significantly improve existing products, processes or services.  Applicants will need to consider the main ethical, societal and regulatory implications for their anticipated commercial use of the technology and their approach to responsible innovation will be reviewed as part of the assessment process.

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council will also announce today that it will invest almost £5 million to help the UK’s world-leading researchers in synthetic biology to establish platform technology in the emerging field. 

And in parallel to the initiative, the ESRC will be supporting social scientific work on opportunities for the use of synthetic biology and potential risks and regulation.

Further information about the Advancing the Industrial Application of Synthetic Biology funding opportunity is available at: Synthetic Biology competition.  Further information about the EPSRC investment is available from their website: www.epsrc.ac.uk

View the press release here.

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Last updated on Thursday 24 May 2012 at 12:48

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