Government invests £5m in bioscience

08 March 2013

Posted by Satvir Bhullar

A £5.3 million government investment has been provided for cutting-edge synthetic biology companies.

The funding, which has been raised by the Technology Strategy Board and Research Councils, will help to fund 15 bioscience projects across the UK.

Synthetic biology focuses on applying the principles of engineering design to biological systems and processes. It is hoped the science could lead to new applications, such as novel systems for energy and chemical production, medical therapies, biological computers and better ways to deal with hazardous waste.

Speaking about the investment, Universities and Science Minister David Willetts commented: "Synthetic biology is one of eight key technology areas that I have identified as playing an increasingly important part in the global economy over the coming years."

He added the UK is well positioned in the biological sciences sector and is one of the first economies to invest in this particular area of technology.

Mr Willetts' comments were made during a visit to Synthace, which is one of the businesses to benefit from the government's funding.

The company, which is located at University College London, uses micro-organisms to convert small molecules into different, more useful products. The aim of this is to develop high-value chemical products such as bases for fragrances and air fresheners, using cheap industrial feedstocks like rapeseed oil.

Mr Willetts said: "Companies like Synthace can help the UK exploit the massive potential that synthetic biology has both here and abroad."

He added that by choosing to invest in synthetic biology now, the UK will be at the "forefront of the global race" for commercialising new technologies in ten year's time.

Sean Ward, Synthace's Chief Executive, said the government funding will allow its project to "demonstrate a new way of engineering biology, with timescales in months rather than years, which will impact sectors across the UK and global economies".

The government's £5.3 million investment is comprised of money provided by the Technology Strategy Board, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

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