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New public-private initiative to develop cleaner, greener chemicals

7 August 2008

A new research initiative, bringing together the UK’s main public funder of bioscience research with 10 companies, has been launched today to accelerate development of technologies required for the sustainable production of chemicals through biorefining.

The Integrated Biorefinery Technologies Initiative (IBTI) Club is being led by the UK’s main public funder of bioscience research – the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). BBSRC will be working with the Bioscience for Business Knowledge Transfer Network and the founder company members of the IBTI Club: Biocaldol, BP Biofuels UK, British Sugar, Croda, Danisco A/S Genencor, Green Biologics, AHDB-HGCA, KWS UK, Syngenta and TMO Renewables.

The IBTI Club will award around £5M, a mixture of BBSRC funds and company contributions, to researchers to investigate basic bioscience with the potential to solve some of the issues the sector currently faces. These include challenges specific to the second generation of biorefining, the technology that could lead to the production of chemicals, materials and fuels from agricultural and food waste and non-food crops instead of from fossil fuels.

The research club forms one part of BBSRC’s wider bioenergy investment strategy. In the coming months the Council will announce funding in second generation bioenergy research that will bring its commitments in this area to around £25M. BBSRC’s funding is aimed at building capacity and expertise in this area of research to enable the UK to capitalise on the second generation of bioenergy - the renewable plant-based energy that will provide a sustainable energy source without using edible products from the food chain.

Dr Doug Yarrow, BBSRC Director of Corporate Science, said: “Second generation biorefining has the potential to provide us with vital industrial chemicals, lubricants and other materials without the use of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are a finite resource and their use is contributing to climate change. This public-private Club will invest in the underpinning bioscience that will help us to reduce their use.”

To deliver the potential of new biorefining technology the IBTI Club will fund research to:

  • Maximise the yield of the biomass going into a biorefinery and the quality and quantity of product produced.
  • Develop integrated bioprocessing techniques to remove bottlenecks from current systems and to extract the most valuable compounds from refined feedstocks.
  • Maximise the value of by-products from the biorefining process to increase the economic viability of the process.

Chris Tapsell, Technical Director of KWS UK, one of the company members of the Club, said: “The public-private Club to develop biorefining technologies will be more than a sum of its parts. By bringing together world-class UK academic researchers with industrial partners we can ensure that the work we are investing in will be relevant to the challenges of this important sector, from improved raw materials, improved process and increased added value of end products. Our ambition is for the projects funded by the initiative to produce innovative technologies and lead into new demonstration facilities.”

The IBTI Club will run for 5 years and will have two calls for proposals. The first call for research projects is being made today. More information is available at:  http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/business/collaborative_research/industry_clubs/ibti

ENDS

Notes to editors

The Integrated Biorefinery Technologies Initiative Club is the third BBSRC Research and Technology Club. On completion, the clubs will, collectively, have funded £29M of industrially-relevant, world-class research in UK universities and institutes.

The Bioscience for Business Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) has launched an Integrated Biorefineries Initiative.

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About BBSRC

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is the UK funding agency for research in the life sciences. Sponsored by Government, BBSRC annually invests around £420M in a wide range of research that makes a significant contribution to the quality of life for UK citizens and supports a number of important industrial stakeholders including the agriculture, food, chemical, healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors. http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk

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