• Status: Closed

  • Key features: Investment of up to £1m to encourage the development and commercialisation of innovative processes that will generate high-value chemical products through biotechnology and bio-refining.

  • Programme: Feasibility studies

  • Award: Up to £1m

  • Opens: 09 Sep 2013, 00:00

  • Registration closes: 23 Oct 2013, 12:00

  • Closes: 30 Oct 2013, 12:00

  • Support phone number: 0300 321 4357

Sustainable high-value chemical manufacture through industrial biotechnology 2 - Technical Feasibility

Competition results

The results of this competition are now available; see the PDF of the winning project proposals.


Updated 24 July 2013: new deadlines for registration and submitting applications.
The Technology Strategy Board is to invest up to £2.5m in feasibility and collaborative R&D projects to encourage the development and commercialisation of innovative processes that will generate high-value chemical products through industrial biotechnology and bio-refining. In addition, Innovation Norway will consider providing funding to Norwegian companies. 
Industrial biotechnology enables biological feedstocks to be used in the processing and production of chemicals. This could help the chemical industry move away from a dependency on fossil resources towards a bio-economy based on renewable and biological compounds. The aim of this competition is to assist businesses in trialling new processes as well as progressing proven routes through to demonstration scale. 
All projects must be led by a UK business but they can partner with academics and research and technology organisations (RTOs) as well as other companies, including from Norway. Feasibility projects can be single company or collaborative. Collaborative R&D projects must be run at a demonstration scale and include an end-user. 
We will invest up to £0.25m in business model feasibility studies, which are likely to have a total budget in the range £10k-£33k. Up to £1m is available to support technical feasibility projects which are likely to have a total budget in the range £150k-£200k. Up to £1.25m is available for collaborative R&D projects that are likely to have a total budget in the range £500k-£1m. 
Innovation Norway intends to provide additional funds to Norwegian companies, while funding may also be available from UK research councils. Please see the Funding section for more details. 
The competition opens on 9 September 2013. The deadline for applications is noon on 30 October 2013. A briefing event giving more information for potential applicants will be held in London on 12 September 2013.

Background and challenge

The UK is a significant producer of chemicals, representing 12% of total UK manufacturing and with sales that exceeded £60bn in 20111. These products are used in numerous sectors, including pharmaceuticals, food and drink, construction, plastics and personal care. Together, these ‘chemistry-using industries' represent £150bn of Gross Value Added for the UK, employing 1.9 million people2.
Industrial biotechnology and the use of sustainable feedstocks provide a significant opportunity for the UK's chemical sector to increase its competitiveness. It is estimated that the total global value of markets using industrial biotechnology will be several hundred billion pounds by 2025. Industrial biotechnology can also help to reduce carbon emissions. 
In 2009, the industry-led Industrial Biotechnology Innovation and Growth Team (IB-IGT) published a report to Government, setting out its vision for industrial biotechnology through to 2025. The IB-IGT report is available at www.iblf-uk.com. Significant progress has been made since its publication, under the strategic direction of the Industrial Biotechnology Leadership Forum. 
The Industrial Biotechnology Special Interest Group, run by the Chemistry Innovation and Biosciences Knowledge Transfer Networks, was formed as part of the recommendations. To date, it has helped more than 100 companies understand the potential of industrial biotechnology and the funding available to support new projects, as well as finding them partners. In addition, the Algal Bioenergy Special Interest Group published the Algal Biotechnology Industry Roadmap Report in 20133
This is the fifth competition in the IB-IGT recommended series of investments, continuing to provide funds for industry to trial new processes and technologies at laboratory and pilot scale. The final proving step before commercialisation should be the demonstration of a proven process, at the site of a partner, contractor or on a publicly-funded site, such as the National Industrial Biotechnology Facility, or at a Norwegian RTO such as SINTEF or Nofima. 
1 IB 2025: Maximising UK Opportunities from Industrial Biotechnology in a Low Carbon Economy. A report to government by the Industrial Biotechnology Innovation and Growth Team, May 2009 
2 Manufacturing in the UK: An economic analysis of the sector, BIS Economics Paper No. 10A, 2013
3 Algal Biotechnology Industry Roadmap Report, May 2013  


The Technology Strategy Board's high value manufacturing strategy was published in 2012 and is being implemented through investment in 21 national competencies. This ensures our support is focused on where there is the greatest potential to deliver high-value economic impact across multiple global market sectors. Investment in a competency should derive value in several market sectors. So investment in industrial biotechnology and bio-refining should have more wealth-creating potential than the initial market sector for which they were first applied. 
This investment in industrial biotechnology aligns with three competencies: 
  • biotech, biological and synthetic biology processing 
  • process engineering capability across food, pharmaceuticals and chemicals 
  • building new business models to support high value manufacturing. 
We will fund projects that utilise sustainable bio-based feedstocks and/or biocatalytic processes in the production of higher value chemicals. While not an exhaustive list, projects may include aspects of one or more of the following areas: 
  • extraction of valuable chemicals from biomass 
  • identification and optimisation of biocatalysts for the production of chemicals 
  • optimisation and development of biotransformation processes 
  • novel bioreactors and downstream processing 
  • use of green solvents and/or recycling of solvents (including water) 
  • extracting maximum value from the conversion of lignocellulosic biomass (eg. from crops, marine or waste sources) to chemical products 
Note: projects exploring the sole production of renewable fuels and energy are specifically excluded. Those that include dual-use products (eg. for chemicals and energy) should focus on the chemical pathway. Projects focused on bio-refining must not be purely explorative exercises; successful demonstration of a process using industrial biotechnology is intended to lead directly to commercial-scale production in the UK – within three years for collaborative R&D and five years for feasibility projects. 
This competition aims to stimulate collaboration between the chemical sector, industrial biotechnology developers and higher education institutions. We are encouraging the chemical and chemistry- using sectors to use this initiative to pilot industrial biotechnology alternatives for existing processes or to consider new opportunities, for example through combining biological and chemical steps. Organisations with a new or underutilised source of biomass may also wish to use this competition to trial new applications. 

Looking for partners to work on your project? 

Go to _connect to find collaborators and networks. 
All projects should demonstrate that they intend to innovate responsibly. This might involve the following: consideration of the use of non-food sources of biomass; sustainability; increased energy and water efficiency; and socioeconomic aspects of large-scale uses of biomass. 
All applicants must show how their project would make a positive overall contribution in terms of economic, environmental and social impacts – the triple bottom line – taking into account the full product lifecycle. Where appropriate, projects should use lifecycle methodology to calculate the potential reduction in carbon. The new version of the CCaLC (Carbon Calculations over the Life Cycle of Industrial Activities) carbon footprinting tool can be used, and is available for free. 

Funding allocation and project details

Partnerships with Norwegian companies are encouraged. 

Technical feasibility 

Up to £1m is available for technical feasibility projects that will allow a company that is unfamiliar with industrial biotechnology to assess the feasibility of an alternative method to chemical synthesis or fossil based feedstocks. A company with expertise in industrial biotechnology has the opportunity to test a new process or apply an existing process to a new product class. These projects must have proven their effectiveness at bench scale and should attempt to validate their results in industrially comparable equipment. 
Technical feasibility projects: 
  • must be led by a UK company 
  • can be single-company or collaborative 
  • must be at pilot scale (e.g. for fermentation processes, typically below 1,000 litres batch-processing capacity) 
  • should typically last six to nine months 
  • are likely to have a total project budget between £150k and £200k 
  • will lead to market exploitation within five years of completion 
Each business can claim up to 65% of total eligible project costs, or 75% for SMEs. Academic or RTO involvement must not exceed 50% of total project costs. 

Co-funding and dissemination 

Partnerships with Norwegian companies are accepted. The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) have expressed interest in supporting this competition and funding may be available for parts of projects where there is a significant high-quality academic component. BBSRC would be particularly interested in supporting academics on projects that fit within the strategic priorities for industrial biotechnology. Project leaders will be required to provide a non-confidential summary of their project results upon completion for dissemination.

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 objective of this MoU is to jointly support business collaboration in the area of industrial biotechnology and biorefining. See the MoU, as well as an interim report on the partnership.
The Norwegian Industrial Biotechnology Network provides complementary information. for industrial biotechnology . Project leaders will be required to provide a non-confidential summary of their project results upon completion for dissemination. 

Application process

This single-stage competition for feasibility studies and collaborative R&D opens on 9 September 2013. The registration deadline is at noon 23 October 2013 and the deadline for applications is at noon on 30 October 2013. A briefing event will be held in London on 12 September 2013 to highlight the main features of the competition and explain the application process. 
Note: All deadlines are at noon. 

More information

Key dates

  • Competition opens: 9 September 2013
  • Briefing day: 12 September 2013
  • Registration deadline: 23 October 2013
  • Deadline for applications: 30 October 2013


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 award is confirmed as final. Information about unsuccessful project applications will remain confidential and will not be made public.
E-mail pressoffice@tsb.gov.uk with any queries.