29. 01. 2013

Industrial Biotechnology

Here’s a little test: when you read those two words, ‘Industrial Biotechnology’, do they resonate positively, negatively, or neutrally? Do you hear them as an unfortunate combination of the old-fashioned and clunky (the ‘industrial’ bit) with all those hints of high-tech and high-risk that come with the biotech bit? Or does it set your pulse racing at the prospect of a new source of wealth creation that genuinely meets the challenge of sustainability at the same time?

For all those business people involved in the Industrial Biotechnology Leadership Forum, that’s a real worry. It’s job is to get governments, investors and key stakeholders to feel as enthusiastic about the potential for IB as they themselves do.

Forum for the Future has become one of those key stakeholders. Back in 2009, we were asked to run a stakeholder workshop for a government-funded initiative looking at the growth potential for IB businesses in the UK. That was chaired by Ian Shott (now Chair of the Industrial Biotechnology Leadership Forum), who provided Ministers with a very clear steer.

When the Leadership Forum was set up, Ian asked me to set up a Stakeholder Council, involving NGOs, retailers, the Research Councils and so on. 

Having started out as a bit of a biotech agnostic, I too have become a real enthusiast. The potential for less wasteful, much more resource efficient, low-carbon innovation – in food, pharma, fuels, plastics and so on – is enormous.

And I felt that all the more strongly after the UK IB Showcase event on 22 January, organised by the Chemical industries’ Knowledge Transfer Network (www.chemistryinnovation.co.uk ) on behalf of the Leadership Forum. Some great speeches, an exhibition highlighting much of the cutting edge stuff already up and running in the UK, and a real sense of purpose in terms of seizing the opportunity for accelerated growth.

But there are huge risks as well. The food versus fuel debate around first generation biofuels is as alive and current as ever. Fears about GM are never far away, and the growing interest in synthetic biology will dramatically raise the stakes in that regard. 

So what the Leadership Forum asked me to do was to bring together all those issues in a new report for non-specialist audiences – including anyone who might be reading this blog!

What it all comes down to is making sure that Industrial Biotechnology should not just be promoted, for compelling economic reasons, but done really well from a sustainability perspective. The Stakeholder Council captured that imperative in the following set of mandates:

1. Aim to achieve substantial societal and environmental benefits, as well as business benefits.  

2. Support regulatory and governance structures that put public interest on an equal footing with private gain, and promote extensive engagement with stakeholders.

3. Avoid adverse impacts on food security and affordability.  

4. Secure demonstrable and substantial reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases.

5. Commit to production systems that optimise conditions for biodiversity and healthy ecosystems.

6. Commit to manufacturing processes that maximise the value of all feedstocks (eg closed-loop systems).

7. Place no additional burdens on the availability of scarce water supplies.

8. Avoid any risk of gene transfer in the open environment.

9. Pose no threat to human health.

10. Achieve the highest standards of health and safety both for workers and surrounding communities.

It’s critical to ensure that all those in positions of influence ensure that the industry grows on that sort of basis.  That would certainly be differentiating for the UK, in an  increasingly competitive global sector.
You can see the report, ‘‘Sustainability Returns: Industrial Biotechnology Done Well’ here: /sites/default/files/users/FINALreport%20IB%20DONE%20WELL%20%28Jan%202013%29%20PDF_0.pdf 
 

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Comments

13. 04. 2015
Henry Dang

I found this article a bit late. But its content is still topical.

Biotechnology is gaining the attention of many countries around the world, including Vietnam. I also started with a small project on biotechnology microorganisms in South Vietnam.

My website is http://www.chungvisinh.com/

08. 05. 2014
Marcus Bravo

Great information about Industrial Biotechnology. Nice lines shared about industrial biotech and for health industry it has many benefits.

PSL- Life Science Consultancy

25. 06. 2013
Philip Hodgetts

1. The world will always need energy.
2. The most convenient form of energy is electricity.
3. There are many ways of generating it:(a) conversion of motion.Wind turbines,
wave and tidal generators.
hydro-electric plants.
hot springs (Iceland, etc.)
4. Solar power. Reflective - heats water.
Photo-voltaic DC
every roof should be covered with these.

We should aim at UK being totally self-sufficient by 2040 and running solely on electricity.

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