Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy (IBBE) is defined as ‘the use of biological resources for producing and processing materials, chemicals (including pharmaceutical precursors and biopharmaceuticals) and energy’.

In 2014 BBSRC, with support from EPSRC, committed £18M to fund 13 unique collaborative Networks in Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy (NIBB). The aim of the BBSRC NIBB is to foster collaborations between academia, industry, policy makers and NGOs in order to find new approaches to tackle research challenges, translate research and deliver key benefits in IBBE.

CBMNet – Aims & Remit

The ‘Crossing Biological Membranes Network’ (CBMNet) is one of the 13 phase I NIBB. The aim is to promote the development of enabling technologies that are crucial for the future of cell-based IBBE applications by:

  • Providing a forum for communication between academics and companies, and developing new ways to work with industry in the context of responsible innovation.
  • Supporting and encouraging the formation of multi-disciplinary teams to develop innovative solutions to overcome membrane transport-related IBBE bottlenecks.
  • Providing funding to allow consortia to generate the preliminary information required to establish the feasibility of their proposed approaches, with the target of generating competitive bids to relevant funding calls.

Our remit encompasses the mechanisms by which substances are transported into, within, and out of cell factories. Areas we are keen to explore are:

  • Getting more things in: manipulation of substrate uptake
  • Getting things out: improving export/efflux of chemicals
  • Hijacking transporters for IBBE
  • Moving complex molecules across membranes
  • Altering the membrane itself
  • Putting it all together – consolidated bioprocessing
  • Socio-economic challenges related to crossing biological membranes

The Team

Director: Professor Jeff Green, University of Sheffield

University of Sheffield logoJeff has more than 25 years’ experience of studying microbial biochemistry and physiology, and has published over 100 papers and reviews. His collaborative work with colleagues at UEA, University of Georgia and Sheffield has revealed an almost complete picture of the mechanism of oxygen-sensing by the transcription factor FNR. The recent application of ‘systems’ approaches (European SysMO-SUMO project in which he acts as deputy co-ordinator) to investigate the effects of oxygen availability on E. coli is revealing new mechanistic insights into gene regulation. He is a CI on a White Rose Industrial Biotechnology PhD network ‘Teaching bacteria to eat grass’ and serves on the management board of the White Rose BBSRC Doctoral Training Partnership and the editorial board of Biotechnology Letters.

Co-director: Professor Gavin Thomas, University of York

University of YorkGavin has over 15 years of experience studying the function of microbial transport proteins and has published over 50 papers and reviews. His research focuses on the application of transporters to IBBE, e.g. transport of odour precursor molecules in underarm bacteria (with Unilever) and oligosaccharide transport for improved utilisation of lignocellulose for biofuel production (BBSRC and TSB with Green Biologics Ltd.) He is also a PI on the White Rose PhD network ‘Teaching bacteria to eat grass’, where two of the projects are centred on engineering improved transporter capabilities. He has extensive experience of using structural, biochemical, physiological and genetic methods to understand transporter function, and has an international reputation in bacterial transporter research, having made major advances in studying the function and mechanism of tripartite ATP-independent periplasmic (TRAP) transporters.

The Future – BBSRC Phase II NIBB

The first phase of NIBB, including CBMNet, came to a close in 2019. This website is no longer actively maintained but you can still read about some of our successes, achievements and outputs here. The first phase of NIBB were a huge success with the result that BBSRC invested £11 million into a second phase of NIBB, with siginificant support from EPSRC. These networks will run from 2019 – 2024, are free to join throughout their lifetime and will provide pump-priming funding and networking events. Get in touch with them if you are interested in their activities:

Algae-UK: Exploiting the algal treasure trove – website TBC


Biomass Biorefinery Network (BBNet)


Carbon Recycling: Converting waste derived GHG into chemicals, fuels and animal feed (CCNet)


Elements of Bioremediation, Biomanufacturing & Bioenergy (E3B) Metals in Biology


Environmental Biotechnology Network (EBNet)


High Value Biorenewables (HVB) Network