• Status: Closed

  • Key features: Investment of up to £40m in major integrated research and development projects through the Industrial Biotechnology Catalyst.

  • Programme: Other

  • Award: Up to £40m

  • Opens: 11 Dec 2014, 00:00

  • Registration closes: 25 Feb 2015, 12:00

  • Closes: 04 Mar 2015, 12:00

  • Support phone number: 0300 321 4357

Industrial Biotechnology Catalyst - Early-stage - Translation - Round 3


The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the Technology Strategy Board and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) are to invest £40m in major integrated research and development projects through the Industrial Biotechnology Catalyst. Catalysts provide funding to innovative businesses and researchers working in priority areas with the aim of helping them to quickly turn excellent UK research into new or improved commercial processes and products.

The Industrial Biotechnology Catalyst programme will accelerate commercialisation by supporting the development of new industrial biotechnology products and processes, and enabling their potential scale-up. It will support R&D for the processing and production of materials, chemicals and bioenergy through the sustainable exploitation of biological resources. We are particularly encouraging a collaborative approach.

There are five types of award – early stage: translation; early stage: feasibility studies;  industrial research; late stage: pre-experimental feasibility studies; and late stage: experimental development – and, with the exception of translation awards which are academic, can involve a single business or be collaborative. Total project sizes can range from up to £250k for feasibility studies to up to £10m for experimental development.

The competition opens on 11 December 2014. The deadline for registration is noon on 25 February 2015 and the competition close date is noon on 4 March 2015.



Industrial biotechnology is the use of biological processes to produce materials, chemicals and energy. Investment in industrial biotechnology has the potential to reduce fossil oil use and help the UK to meet its requirements under climate change legislation. It could also contribute to fuel security, to the production of innovative materials and chemicals, and to the creation of new jobs.

The UK is a world leader in research in this area. Collaboration between UK researchers and the emergent industrial biotechnology sector provides a significant opportunity for UK industry to deliver the environmental, social and economic benefits of industrial biotechnology, and increase the UK's competitiveness. Estimates of the potential size of the UK industrial biotechnology market range from £4bn to £12bn by 2025.

There are significant challenges to developing these new processes and products. Progress requires the bringing together of knowledge and technologies, often from different disciplines, in order to: understand how to handle feedstocks and by-products of production; overcome the challenges of scale-up; optimise the energy balance, and make a positive overall contribution in terms of economic, environmental and social performance. It can be difficult for business to address these challenges alone, so there is a need to build collaborations, facilitate knowledge exchange, and share investment risk with other funders.


The Industrial Biotechnology Catalyst will support the development and commercialisation of innovative industrial biotechnology processes for the manufacture of a wide range of existing and new products, taking into account their sustainability and their social, economic and environmental impacts.

It will bring together key academics and businesses in the UK industrial biotechnology and bioenergy community to support R&D projects in the Industrial Biotechnology Catalyst challenge areas. These should seek to apply biological processes to the development of innovative and efficient manufacturing of existing products (replacement products), or new products that reduce dependency on fossil oil and de-carbonise some industrial processes.


The Industrial Biotechnology Catalyst will support R&D in the processing and production of materials, chemicals (including pharmaceutical precursors and biopharmaceuticals) and bioenergy. The biological resources that may be used in these processes include tissues, enzymes and genes from organisms that include algae, marine life, fungi, microorganisms and plants.

The Industrial Biotechnology Catalyst aims to encourage the use of new technologies such as systems and synthetic biology alongside more traditional approaches such as fermentation and process engineering, and biocatalysis. This can include developing the theory and modelling of the processes involved.

Projects should address one or more of the following challenges using biological processes, or processes in which biological and chemical approaches are used in combination:

  • production of fine and speciality chemicals and natural products (for example fragrances, flavours and pharmaceutical intermediates)
  • production of commodity, platform and intermediate chemicals and materials (for example plastics, resins and textiles)
  • production of liquid and gaseous biofuels
  • production of peptides and proteins (for example enzymes, antibiotics and recombinant biologics)
  • novel or improved upstream or downstream processes to reduce costs or improve efficiency.

The Industrial Biotechnology Catalyst will not fund research that uses feedstocks from material that could be used for human food or animal feed to produce liquid and gaseous fuels (unless they have already fulfilled their food purpose). Projects involving the production of food and drink are out of scope. However, projects may address the production of fine chemicals for use as food ingredients, for example flavourings and colourings. The Catalyst will not support research on natural products aimed at discovering new organisms or searching for new activity, but will support the translation of discoveries into a commercial activity.

All applicants must consider how their project will make a positive overall contribution in terms of economic, environmental and social impacts – the triple bottom line – taking into account the full product lifecycle. The level of detail required will depend on the stage of the project. We expect that industrial research projects will describe how these impacts will be considered across the lifetime of the project. Late-stage projects should have already considered these impacts in greater detail prior to application, and will be expected to provide a more focused and thorough description. Where appropriate, projects should use lifecycle methodology to calculate the potential reduction in carbon emissions.

Projects must also consider how the research fits/integrates with other components of the manufacturing process, including recognition or engagement with other component parts and expertise, where appropriate.   

Looking for partners to work on your project?

Go to _connect to find collaborators and networks.

UK-Norwegian partnerships

In February 2011, the Technology Strategy Board signed a memorandum of understanding with Innovation Norway, the main Norwegian Government agency for industry development. The aim is to jointly support business collaboration in the area of industrial biotechnology and biorefining. Norwegian businesses wishing to be part of a UK business-led Industrial Biotechnology Catalyst project are encouraged but should confirm their eligibility with Innovation Norway prior to submission.

Go to https://ktn.innovateuk.org/web/norway-and-uk or http://www.indbiotech.no/ for more information. 

Funding allocation and project details

We have allocated up to £40m in 2014-15 to fund R&D projects that address the technical challenges outlined in the scope.

Early-stage: translation

Translation awards will support academic R&D projects that aim to translate research discoveries into new or improved industrial biotechnology technologies, processes and products. This includes studies of separate components of the technology/process, through to the integration of those technological components to establish that they work together in a process at bench scale. Projects should show significant progression towards the development of new technologies and processes, and include a significant element of technological innovation and risk. Projects should also aim to significantly reduce the technical uncertainty of a particular process or technology that is a significant barrier to business investment at the level expected for industrial research awards. Projects must be able to identify what the route to market will be if technological challenges are overcome.

Projects must be pre-competitive and academic-led. Funding is only available to academics in line with the standard BBSRC and EPSRC eligibility rules. Business involvement is encouraged but businesses must cover their own costs. Projects must not contravene the European Community Framework for State Aid for Research and Development and Innovation. Total project costs should be between £2m and £5m and projects should last between three and five years. Projects must apply BBSRC's data-sharing policy.

Application process

The competition opens for all stages on 11 December 2014.

There is a two-stage application process for translation, industrial research and experimental development.

  • Stage 1 – Applicants submit an expression of interest which is assessed.
  • Stage 2 – We invite selected applicants to submit a full application.

Applications are assessed on individual merit by an independent panel of experts. We may apply a portfolio approach across the themes/areas.

A team from NNFCC, The Bioeconomy Consultants, led by Dr Adrian Higson, has been appointed to the Industrial Biotechnology Catalyst to act as coordinators and advise on the scope of applications to be submitted to the Catalyst and facilitate development of new collaborations. Adrian can be contacted at A.Higson@nnfcc.co.uk.



Key dates

  • Open: 11 December 2014
  • Registration deadline: noon on 25 February 2015
  • Competition close deadline: noon on 4 March 2015

More information

To apply you must first register with us through the competition page on the website. Registration opens when the competition opens and closes a week before the deadline for applications.


As part of the application process all applicants are asked to submit a public description of the project. This should adequately describe the project but not disclose any information that may impact on intellectual property, is confidential or commercially sensitive.

The titles of successful projects, names of organisations, amounts awarded and the public description will be published once the decision to offer an award has been communicated to applicants by email. Information about unsuccessful project applications will remain confidential and will not be made public.

E-mail pressoffice@innovateuk.gov.uk with any queries.