Developing a Strategy for Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy in the UK


In March 2017 RSM was commissioned by a consortium of four NIBB from four UK universities (CBMNet, BIOCATNET, P2P and C1Net) led by the University of Sheffield’s ‘Crossing Biological Membranes Network (CBMNet)’ to produce this report on the UK’s Industrial Biotechnology Landscape.

The findings and recommendations provided in this report are based on: an extensive desk based review of relevant strategy and policy documentation; in-depth interviews with 50 strategic industrial biotechnology stakeholders; analysis of secondary datasets including company and investment data; an online survey yielding 160 responses; in-depth case study research; and group consultation with leading academics.

Read the summary and full reports and our letter to the UK government.

As recognised by Rt Hon Greg Clark MP, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy:

“Unlike in the past, industrial strategy must be about creating the right conditions for new and growing enterprise to thrive, not protecting the position of incumbents. A modern British industrial strategy must make this country a fertile ground for new businesses and new industries which will challenge and in some cases displace the companies and industries of today.”

The breadth of IBBE’s industrial application, coupled with the UK’s excellent scientific research base means that there are fewer industrial areas better placed to deliver against the central thrust of the Industrial Strategy. This relatively embryonic sector will shape the UK’s future role and standing in major international industrial markets (currently comprising c.£34bn revenue). More significantly, IBBE is recognised internationally as the key enabling technology that can help address major societal challenges through new methods of manufacturing consumer products, new materials (such as industrial composites and biodegradable plastics) and sustainable energy in the form of liquid and gaseous biofuels, while simultaneously reducing greenhouse gas emissions and making more effective use of agricultural, food and municipal wastes.

The report provides evidence of the value of IBBE to the UK in the form of economic data, covering investment, company growth and UK region, along with future growth potential. The UK has particular strength in high growth and emerging IBBE markets, including in the manufacture of high value, low volume chemicals and the manufacture of recombinant biologics using new technologies from the UK’s academic leadership in genomic, systems and synthetic biology, partnered with leading multinational companies and UK-based SMEs.

We believe that the UK has the opportunity to realise enormous benefits from the growing IBBE technology sector, but to be mindful that there are significant risks that could effect this growth which need to be addressed as a matter of some urgency.

The UK IBBE community cannot continue to develop and grow unless it is fully supported by the UK government in terms of both specific policy and investment.   Perhaps now more than ever, in order to overtake with international competitors, IBBE requires the UK government to have foresight, to build on the UK’s industrial and academic IB expertise, thus demonstrating its commitment to IBBE on the global stage.

Report recommendations