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Innovation and Knowledge Centre for Synthetic Biology

Innovation and Knowledge Centre for Synthetic Biology  - 11 July 2013. iStockphoto

A new £10M Innovation and Knowledge Centre (IKC), that will boost the UK's ability to translate the emerging field of synthetic biology into application and provide a bridge between academia and industry was announced today.

The IKC, to be called SynbiCITE, will be based at Imperial College London and led by Professor Richard Kitney and Professor Paul Freemont. Its main aim will be to act as an Industrial Translation Engine that can integrate university and industry based research in synthetic biology into industrial process and products.

SynbiCITE is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research (BBSRC) and Technology Strategy Board. It will receive initial grant funding of £5M, with a further £5M to be awarded over the next two years.

The Centre will be a national resource and involve researchers from a further 17 universities and academic institutions across the UK, as well as 13 industrial partners, including the research arms of Microsoft, Shell and GlaxoSmithKline.

Announcing the funding at the SB6.0 Conference  David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science, said "Synthetic biology has huge potential for our economy and society in so many areas, from life sciences to agriculture. But to realise this potential we need to ensure researchers and business work together. This new Innovation and Knowledge Centre will help advance scientific knowledge and turn cutting edge research into commercial success."

Professor Richard Kitney, co-academic of SynbiCITE from the Department of Bioengineering at Imperial, says: "Synthetic Biology could be the next 'industrial revolution' for the UK, where tiny devices manufactured from cells are used by us to improve many facets of our lives. From producing new, more sustainable fuels to developing devices that can monitor or improve our health, the applications in this field are limitless."

Many researchers, policy makers and governments are anticipating that synthetic biology will provide a range of benefits to society in sectors such as human health; agriculture and food production; environmental protection and remediation; bioenergy and chemical production.

It has been identified by David Willetts as one of the Eight Great Technologies  that the UK needs to prioritise and the 2012 Autumn Statement announced significant investment in the field. Establishing the IKC was one of the recommendations of the UK Roadmap for Synthetic Biology, published in July 2012 .

Professor Douglas Kell, BBSRC Chief Executive, said: "BBSRC invests in synthetic biology due to its huge potential in addressing some of the major challenges of the 21st Century. This IKC will help to realise this potential by aiding the translation of science into beneficial applications."

Professor David Delpy, EPSRC's Chief Executive, said "Synthetic Biology is an EPSRC priority area. This new Innovation and Knowledge Centre, the seventh we have co-funded, will link universities to industries and accelerate the transition of discoveries from the laboratory to the factory."

SynbiCITE is the seventh IKC with the aim of commercialising emerging technologies through creating early stage critical mass in an area of disruptive technology. IKCs are able to achieve this through their international quality research capability and access to companion technologies needed to commercialise research. Based in a university they are led by an expert entrepreneurial team. While continuing to advance the research agenda, they create impact by enhancing wealth generation of the businesses with which they work.

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SynbiCITE partners

University partners and collaborators

Industry and other partners