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Government responds to Synthetic Biology Roadmap

Issue date:
09 November 2012
Physical sciences

The Government have today responded to the findings and recommendations of the Synthetic Biology Roadmap Coordinating Group. 

On the same day, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, used a speech at the Royal Society to announce a further £20 million for new synthetic biology projects based at the universities of Exeter, Glasgow, Nottingham, Manchester, Warwick, and the John Innes Centre.

The awards, part of Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council's (BBSRC) Strategic Longer and Larger Awards scheme, are supported by contributions of nearly £3 million from industry and three were co-funded in partnership with the EPSRC, which contributed nearly £2 million.

In an open letter to Lionel Clarke, the Chair of the group (PDF 135KB), Science Minister, David Willetts, welcomes the Roadmap and sets out the progress that has already been made in strengthening the UK synthetic biology research community's capability via research council investments and other initiatives.

The roadmap outlines five key recommendations:

  1. Invest in a network of multidisciplinary centres to establish an outstanding UK synthetic biology resource
  2. Build a skilled, energised and well-funded UK-wide synthetic biology community.
  3. Invest to accelerate technology responsibly to market.
  4. Assume a leading international role.
  5. Establish a leadership council

Mr Willetts refers to the recent £5 million of funding from EPSRC to 'The Flowers Consortium', (Cambridge, Edinburgh, and Imperial and King's Colleges London and Newcastle) to help establish platform technologies, as the crucial next step necessary for applications to be produced and commercialised.

He also highlights the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council's (BBSRC) £4 million investment in the Universities of Oxford and Southampton to develop a new platform technology for producing synthetic DNA and RNA. 

In addition, he draws attention to the £6.5 million joint investment from the Technology Strategy Board (TSB), the BBSRC, the EPSRC and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) in May 2012, to encourage businesses to explore new industrial applications for synthetic biology.

Mr Willetts rounds his letter accepting the recommendation to establish a Leadership Council, to be Chaired by Lionel Clarke, that will be a visible point for strategic coordination between funding agencies, the research community, industry and other stakeholders including societal and ethical representatives.