IBioIC commits £11 million to green biotechnology skills

Ian Archer, technical director at IBioIC in the lab

THE Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre (IBioIC) has awarded 15 new grants to fund PhD projects at biotechnology companies, marking a commitment of more than £11 million to future green skills since the centre’s inception in 2014.

A range of start-ups, SMEs, and large companies will share a combined package of £2.8 million from IBioIC and the UK-wide Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). The funding will allow pioneering research projects to employ the skills of PhD students over a four-year study programme.

IBioIC’s industry-led PhD programme focuses on giving students commercial and industrial experience alongside academic research to help them succeed in industry. Students spend up to one year working directly in the industrial biotechnology community, with the opportunity to learn directly from experts in the field, build relationships and cultivate their own networks.

The innovation centre and its partners will have supported more than 100 PhD students when the new cohort start in October 2021. Early participants have now progressed to related biotechnology roles.

Ian Archer, technical director at IBioIC, said: “The industrial biotechnology community is growing at pace alongside the UK-wide drive for sustainability, and our collaborative training partnerships rightly aim to bring together industry and academia to support commercial development.

“The programme is carefully designed to help students enter the world of work, with commercial and business development modules that go beyond academic training to ensure students are industry-ready. We also endeavour to support students individually with a focus on personal development and wellbeing built into the programme, which is quite different to traditional PhD studies.

“The latest awards represent a significant milestone for the programme, with the combined project value now exceeding £11 million. Once again, we had an overwhelmingly positive response from the industry to our latest call for projects, with a range of exciting areas of research that can underpin significant steps towards building a more sustainable and circular economy.”

Among the latest set of projects is a circular bioeconomy initiative with the University of Edinburgh and IndiNature, an Edinburgh-based sustainable construction materials manufacturer. The company has secured £104,000 for a doctoral research project, which will explore the use of agricultural waste as a feedstock for making novel materials to bind crop-based fibres together to make circular, low-carbon building insulation.

Scott Simpson, CEO of IndiNature, said: “There is growing demand for natural, plastic-free products that can be used to improve the sustainability of our built environment and we are turning that into a reality using locally-grown crops and bio-based materials.

“Having the support of a PhD student will be invaluable as we aim to scale-up our lab-based research and we are looking forward to working closely with future talent who will no doubt offer a fresh perspective. As well as the environmental benefit of our products, we are committed to making a positive impact on the communities we operate in, including support for the next generation of biotechnology experts.” Students are now invited to apply for the fully funded places through universities across the UK.

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