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New research to develop chemical supplies for industry

Issue date:
23 January 2013
Press release 

EPSRC and BBSRC grants to help advance sustainability and combat reliance on fossil resource

Finding alternative ways of supplying chemicals for fuels and industrial use is one of the key challenges facing the industrial biotechnology industry today. Dwindling supplies and growing demand for fossil based resources, plus geopolitical uncertainty and the threat of climate change provide a vivid backdrop.

Five new research projects that will focus on how to develop cost-effective production of chemicals and materials from sustainable and renewable raw materials (aka feedstocks), have today been awarded £11.8 million by two research councils - the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) £10.7 million and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) £1.1 million.

The programmes involve university consortia across the engineering, physical and biological sciences and will also look into how these new feedstocks can be brought into future manufacturing processes. The institutions involved are the University of Bath, UCL, Imperial College London and Durham University.

The grants were announced today at the Industrial Biotechnology Leadership Forum (IBLF) showcase event held at Church House Conference Centre, Westminster, London

Welcoming the news, Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts said: “Scientific research is crucial to the developing alternatives to fossil based resources. The need to develop new chemicals, that are both sustainable and viable in our manufacturing processes, is pressing. It also presents us with opportunities to use our world class research base to accelerate the pace of change and deliver scientific and economic impact.”

Professor David Delpy, EPSRC’s Chief Executive said: “This initiative also demonstrates the significant contribution that novel chemistry and engineering funded by EPSRC can make towards BBSRC’s strategic priority of Industrial Biotechnology.”

In addition, in November 2012 EPSRC contributed around £2 million to a £20 million series of grants announced for synthetic biology that form part of BBSRC’s Strategic longer and larger grants (sLoLas).

Principal Investigator and grant reference Holding organisation Grant title Grant value
Matthew Davidson EP/K014889/1 University of Bath Terpene-based manufacturing for sustainable chemical feedstocks £2.8m (including 20% BBSRC)
Gary J Lye EP/K014897/1 UCL Bio-derived feedstocks for sustainable, UK-based manufacture of pharmaceuticals and their intermediates £1.9m (including 30% BBSRC)
Tom Welton EP/K014676/1 Imperial College London Ionic liquid biorefining of lignocellulose to sustainable polymers £2.5m
David Chadwick
Imperial College London Catalytic routes to intermediates for sustainable processes £2.4m
Phil Dyer
Durham University Processing pipeline for the sustained production of ensiled macroalgae-derived hydrocarbon £2.4m

For more media enquiries only, contact:

Richard Tibenham at the EPSRC Press Office, tel: 01793 444 404.

BBSRC IBBE Strategic Longer Larger EPSRC contributed to are:

Principal Investigator Holding organisation Grant title EPSRC grant value
Nigel Minton University of Nottingham GASCHEM: Optimising industrial gas fermentation for commercial low-carbon fuel and chemical production through systems and synthetic biology approaches EPSRC Co-funding 30% (£708k)
Orkun Soekmen Sover University of Exeter Engineering synthetic microbial communities for biomethane production EPSRC Co-funding 15% (£490k)
Nicholas Turner The University of Manchester Rapid evolution of enzymes and synthetic micro-organisms for the development of industrial biocatalysts EPSRC Co-funding 20% (£720K)

Notes to Editors:

Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is the UK’s main agency for funding research in engineering and the physical sciences. EPSRC invests around £800 million a year in research and postgraduate training, to help the nation handle the next generation of technological change. The areas covered range from information technology to structural engineering, and mathematics to materials science. This research forms the basis for future economic development in the UK and improvements for everyone’s health, lifestyle and culture. EPSRC works alongside other Research Councils with responsibility for other areas of research. The Research Councils work collectively on issues of common concern via Research Councils UK.


BBSRC invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.

Funded by Government, and with an annual budget of around £500 million (2012-2013), BBSRC supports research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes.

BBSRC research and the people it funds are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Its investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.

For more information about BBSRC, its science and impact.

For more information about BBSRC strategically funded institutes.

Reference: PN04/13