The Marine Bioprocessing Centre – Unlocking the Value in our Seaweed

 

James Cameron, Head of Life Sciences, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, blogs about why a new Marine Bioprocessing Centre is needed to help Scotland become a global leader in Marine Biotechnology.

Marine Biotechnology is an exciting opportunity for Scotland. An area within this space that is attracting increasing interest and is especially relevant to Scotland is algae. Globally, algae both macro (seaweed) and micro are being seen as a potential feedstock for a bio-based economy. In a bid to grow the Scottish Marine Biotechnology economy Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) have identified and developed an exciting proposition – The Marine Bioprocessing Centre – a facility to stimulate the sector and ensure we sustainably maximise the potential of our natural resources.

Scotland has many unique assets that provide the ideal ingredients for a thriving Marine Biotechnology sector. With the largest coastline in Europe we have an abundant and diverse supply of seaweed and a long history of utilising this feedstock commercially. In addition to our unique natural resources, Scotland is home to world leading academic expertise in marine biotechnology; Europe’s largest Culture Collection of Algae and Protozoa; has a thriving aquaculture industry and is already home to a variety of innovative marine biotechnology SMEs. In a bid to encourage growth of this sector HIE have developed the European Marine Science Park (EMSP) near Oban. Co-located alongside the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) and a cluster of Marine Biotechnology SMEs the EMSP provides the ideal environment by bringing together knowledge, skills, facilities and experience.

Despite all these fundamental elements being in place the growth of this industry remains constrained by significant obstacles. Firstly, the low levels of translation of academic research to commercial opportunity and secondly the low success rate of SMEs. Many SMEs at the forefront of technology and product development fail to reach successful commercialisation due to the costs associated with providing proof of concept at large scale. Small companies are faced with crippling costs of purchasing specialised scale up equipment, additional skills and lengthy development time – costs that SMEs cannot sustain.

In order to address this issue Highlands and Islands Enterprise are at an advanced stage in developing a proposal for a Marine Bioprocessing Centre. This pilot facility would provide companies access to the specialised equipment and skills required to scale up products and technologies without having to purchase them, increasing the likelihood of reaching commercial success. In developing this proposal we have engaged with the existing marine biotechnology community and with the other pilot facilities across the UK. The UK currently has a number of pilot facilities, created to enable the wider biotechnology spectrum to scale up. These highly successful facilities are core to progression of industrial biotechnology in the UK. Through liaising with the BioPilot network HIE have identified the need for a specialised marine centre, one which will add real additionality to the UK’s pilot centre offering. This centre will provide a platform to encourage innovation, increase commercialisation and be the enabler that allows Scotland to become a global leader in Marine Biotechnology.

We are delighted to be sponsoring the Life Science Awards and hope you will take the opportunity on the night to come and find out more about the proposal for the Marine Bioprocessing Centre or discuss any other opportunities in the Highlands and Islands.