“The UK cannot solve the problem on its own, and we will need to collaborate with foreign governments and companies if we are to truly tackle the crisis ahead.” To say it referring to Brexit – in this exclusive interview with Il Bioeconomista – is Jaymin Amin, COO at Ingenza, the spin-out from the University of Edinburgh founded in 2002, which is today one of the most dynamic European industrial biotech company. With Amin we talk about industrial biotechnology and bioeconomy in Scotland.
Interview by Mario Bonaccorso
What is the role of industrial biotechnology in the bioeconomy?
The bioeconomy encompasses the production of renewable biological resources and the use of innovative and efficient industrial biotechnologies to convert them into food, feed, bio-based products and bioenergy. Technologies such as Ingenza’s range of gene expression tools – including our proprietary inABLE® combinatorial genetics platform – offer great opportunities and solutions to a growing number of major societal, environmental and economic challenges, including climate change mitigation, energy and food security, and resource efficiency.
Why should an investor back the bioeconomy?
If we take the industrial biotechnology sector of the bioeconomy as an example, there is huge potential to produce bio-based chemicals and fuels that were traditionally produced by the large oil and petrochemical companies via chemistry routes. While the previous century saw mass industrialisation through chemistry processes, this century will see the development of bio-based products to replace all the plastics, adhesives, coatings, detergents, lubricants and personal care products currently produced from fossil fuel feedstocks. In addition, the bioeconomy will deliver a whole new range of platform chemicals and products.
Scotland has set industrial biotechnology and the bioeconomy at the center of its development plan for the coming decades. What are the strengths of Scotland’s bioeconomy and where can it improve?
Scotland – and the UK as a whole – has an abundance of world-class research, innovations and scientists, both in industry and academia. This, combined with the government’s continued commitment to funding and supporting the biosciences, is enabling collaborations between SMEs and universities to drive the bioeconomy. An example of this is the Bioeconomy Accelerator, supported by Scottish Enterprise, the Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre (IBioIC) and Zero Waste Scotland, which offers grants for projects that actively contribute to the circular economy in Scotland. Ingenza has submitted an application to the Bioeconomy Accelerator to help fund a collaborative project with the University of Dundee and a large multinational company.
The main weakness of Scotland’s bioeconomy is translating the outputs of this world-class research into commercially viable products in the UK. A key driver is the lack of locally available biomass, as we are one of the most densely populated nations. Converting existing petrochemical plants into industrial biotechnology processing plants is feasible, but having to import feedstocks drives the cost up dramatically and is prohibitive.
Scotland voted in favor of Europe in the Brexit referendum. From your point of view, what effect will Brexit have on the UK’s bioeconomy?
Brexit will not impact the growth of the Bioeconomy in the UK, as the serious challenges we face with regard to food security or energy supply are global issues. The UK cannot solve the problem on its own, and we will need to collaborate with foreign governments and companies if we are to truly tackle the crisis ahead.