Businesses are being invited to develop standard tools and services that will help grow the emerging industry of synthetic biology.
Up to £3.8M is being made available by BBSRC, Innovate UK, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Welsh Government.
Synthetic biology applies engineering tools and approaches to biological cells, biochemical pathways and whole organisms. Potential applications include new ways of making high-value materials such as: fine chemicals and pharmaceuticals; renewable energy sources; processes for detecting and addressing environmental contamination; and increased agricultural productivity.
For example, a project between the BBSRC strategically funded John Innes Centre and antibiotic discovery firm Demuris is using synthetic biology to enhance the effectiveness of a novel antibiotic to combat hospital-acquired infections.
UK Science Minister David Willetts said: "As one of the eight great technologies, synthetic biology has the potential to create exciting products, such as new antibiotics, helping to boost growth and keeping the UK ahead in the global race. Establishing new tools and services for the development of synthetic biology will significantly increase the rate of commercialisation in this emerging sector."
While research in synthetic biology is moving fast, expanding this to commercial scale will take some time. This competition will help speed up the process of commercialisation through the development of standard tools and services. In particular, the funding support is designed to encourage projects that achieve greater efficiency in synthetic biology production methods.
Iain Gray, Chief Executive of Innovate UK, said: "UK businesses have a leading place in the global synthetic biology community. Developing standards tools and processes for this rapidly developing technology will help this sector move towards full commercialisation."
The projected global market for this technology is in the region of $10Bn by 2016.
Notes to editors
For further information visit our Innovate UK competitions webpage.
Applicants must register for the competition by noon on 8 January 2014 and must submit their applications by 15 January 2014.
Consortium building events in advance of the competition opening were held in Manchester and Cardiff in September, the latter co-hosted by the Welsh Government.
About Innovate UK (formerly the Technology Strategy Board)
Innovet UK is the UK's innovation agency. Its goal is to accelerate economic growth by stimulating and supporting business-led innovation. Sponsored by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), Innovate UK brings together business, research and the public sector, supporting and accelerating the development of innovative products and services to meet market needs, tackle major societal challenges and help build the future economy. For more information please visit www.innovateuk.org.
About the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
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. www.epsrc.ac.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 £467M (2012-2013), we support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.