Bioeconomy ready to boom, says Government report

The UK bioeconomy could be worth £100bn a year with Government support, claimed a new report from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).

The report, released on Thursday, highlights the economic potential of the bioresources industry, and how Government can help it grow further. It focuses on the opportunities of waste in particular, as the UK generates at least 100 million tonnes of carbon-containing waste a year.

This waste could be converted into roughly five million tonnes of bioethanol with a potential material impact on fuel supply of £2.4bn, BIS said.

Resource husbandry

The term ‘bioeconomy’ refers to using biological resources or bioprocesses – such as anaerobic digestion – to produce products such as food, energy, and chemicals. There are at least 121 industrial biotechnology businesses already established in the UK and, between 2009 and 2013, the industry saw an annual turnover growth rate of 11%.

February saw the launch of the European Bioeconomy Alliance, whose mission statement was to help the bloc become a ‘leader in the bioeconomy’. Alongside the economic benefits of developing the bioeconomy, BIS claims that the advanced management of carbon-containing wastes could help to reduce the use of petrochemicals, virgin materials and finite resources worldwide. This could contribute to reducing global carbon emissions and to increased energy security, the organisation said.

The ministerial foreword from Business Minister Matthew Hancock reads: “The UK often leads the world where innovation is concerned and the bioeconomy is no exception. There is a real opportunity for the UK and for our businesses to develop and harness new processes and business models and to export solutions to the global market.”

Report recommendations

– The UK has consistently maintained a globally renowned science base, but we are less renowned for our commercial translation of innovation, says the report. “Our priority is to create a strong innovation ecosystem whereby ideas flow smoothly from research through to commercialisation.” 

– The sector is constantly looking for new sources of waste materials to use as feedstocks, and the report says Government must collect and share more data on the UK feedstock supply chain and where to find waste streams.

– Government must also provide funding, finance and infrastructure support through bodies like Innovate UK and the Green Investment Bank.

The Anaerobic Digestion and Bioresources Association (ADBA) has ‘hugely welcomed’ the Government report, asserting that England needs source-segregated food waste collections rather than the one-size-fits all system of today.

Brad Allen

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