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Is Industrial BioTechnology Scotland’s future?

3 Nov 2016
Jack Fullerton

industrial biotech

When Neolithic cultures fermented grapes to make wine, and Babylonians used microbial yeasts to make beer, Industrial Biotechnology was born.


For those like me with limited scientific understanding, Industrial Biotechnology is a powerful new technology at the interface of chemical, life sciences and engineering. In essence it is the use of biological resources to produce and process materials into desired intermediate and final products, including energy and high value chemicals.


Industrial biotechnology is one of the most promising new approaches to pollution prevention, resource conservation, and cost reduction, offering businesses a way to reduce costs and create new markets while protecting the environment.


Recently Scotland hosted #EFIB2016 – the market leading conference for Industrial Biotech sector. Whilst I wasn’t able to attend I did enjoy reading some of the tweets which highlighted the growing strength of the sector in Scotland, in part due to the success of the Scottish Funding Council’s Industrial BioTech Innovation Centre (iBioIC) which brings together industry and academia to exploit the sector’s capabilities.


Since the launch of the National Plan for Industrial Biotechnology in 2013, much has been achieved. Scotland’s first bio refinery was opened, Industrial biotechnology Msc and Phd programmes at Scottish Universities have been developed and £2.8m invested in open access equipment centres.

In total the sector has increased in turnover by 18% to reach £230m with 50+ companies operating in the IB sector. Scotland is home to a number of exciting young Industrial Biotech companies – so, who are the ones to watch?



First up, are my old friends at Roslin BioCentre, Ingenza.  As a founding member of IBioIC, Ingenza is a leader in the application of industrial biotechnology and synthetic biology and works with partners throughout the world to investigate alternative approaches to challenges, improving the chances of success and cutting lead times.


Providing efficient, scalable bioprocesses for the manufacture of chemicals, biologics, pharmaceuticals and biofuels, from sustainable sources, Ingenza’s  unique approach comes from a singular team constructed of experts in molecular biology, fermentation and process chemistry, giving customers a collective response to new manufacturing routes.



TalentSpark client Synpromics leads the Synthetic Biology field.

Synpromics designs and develops patentable synthetic promoters that are fabricated to regulate genes in a highly specific manner. The company’s disruptive technology greatly improves upon natural promoters (traditionally viral or gene specific which have a number of constraints) on which the entire biotech industry currently relies.

Synpromics’ synthetic promoters control genes in Industrial scale cell processes or for therapeutic applications, providing enormous potential for the company to transform the entire sector.


Celtic Renewables

Celtic Renewables is applying microbiology expertise and modern process technology to the Weizmann fermentation process (also known as ABE fermentation) to provide first class solutions for the production of next generation biofuel. Biofuels are essential in de-carbonising the transport sector and demand for liquid fuel will continue to soar worldwide, due to the dependence on the internal combustion engine.


Utilising whisky by-products, Celtic Renewables is producing sustainable biobutanol as a direct replacement for fossil road fuel to help meet the EU mandated biofuel targets, together with a sustainable source of other high value products.


The ambition to create a greener, cleaner Scotland has been set with an ambitious target to grow industrial biotechnology related turnover in Scotland to £900m by 2025. With Chemical Sciences as an established strategic asset, a burgeoning Life Science sector and a government appetite to explore renewable energy and sustainable technology, the assets are in place to make realising the ambition a strong possibility. Watch this space…


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