Biomass Biorefinery Network (BBNet)

Lead Research Organisation: University of York
Department Name: Biology


Today's industrial economy is built largely on the petrochemical industries that provide us with the fuels, chemicals and materials that we consume. The petrochemicals sector is worth around £50b to the UK economy each year, but is unsustainable due to the impacts of net carbon emissions on the environment. Global commitments to move to a carbon-neutral economy by the middle of the century mean that we need to find sustainable resources to replace petroleum. Non-food biomass, such as crop residues and food waste, can provide a renewable carbon-neutral resource that can provide the energy rich carbon chemistries needed for the provision of fuels, chemicals and materials. The Biomass Biorefinery Network (BBNet) will serve as a focal point to build and sustain a dynamic community of industrial and academic practitioners working together to develop new processes for the conversion of non-food biomass into sustainable fuels, chemicals and materials. BBNet will bring together scientists and businesses with interests in biorenewable products and provide small scale research funding to help initiate new collaborations and pump-prime new research areas. BBNet will encourage early-career scientists to get involved in the biorefinery sector through funding competitions and workshops.

BBNet will serve as a focal point to drive forward the UK's bio-based sector and help make the UK the most attractive place for international companies to develop the technologies to underpin the new industrial sector. The network will commission reports that will provide information and intelligence on new areas of opportunity in the biorefinery sector. BBNet will serve as a voice for the business and academic sectors and engage closely with government policy makers to ensure they understand the potential benefits offered by carbon-neutral biorenewable products in both economic and environmental terms. We will commission a survey of relevant UK and international companies to see what factors would enable sector development and make the UK a more attractive place to develop their businesses in the biorenewables sector.

The translation of scientific knowledge into commercial processes requires the ability to up-scale processes and demonstrate their techno-economic viability. The UK is developing a network of enabling capability through the BioPilots UK, which encompasses regional open-access biorefinery facilities in Wales, York, Teesside and Scotland. BBNet will work closely with Biopilots UK and develop funding competitions that allow industrially relevant innovative processes to be tested at scale to help build business opportunities.

Technical Summary

The world is committed to move to a low carbon economy in the coming decades, requiring a shift from the use of fossil resources to provide power, fuel, chemicals and materials. Sustainable, non-food, biomass provides a low carbon alternative to petroleum to provide liquid fuels and chemicals for transport and manufacturing. The UK has a world leading science base that can drive innovation and take advantage of the £multi-billion opportunities created by the switch from fossil carbon.

BBNet will emphasise translational research that encompasses sustainable biomass provision through to processing and production of fuels, chemicals and materials; encouraging genomic, synthetic and systems biology approaches in the research we sponsor. Feedstocks will include agricultural and forest residues, food industry and brewing waste, municipal and commercial solid waste, marine biomass and biomass crops. Our remit will encompass bioprocessing, bio-catalysis and fermentation of biomass, and will embrace chemical conversion and engineering. We will work with Supergen Bioenergy and other NIBB to develop joint areas that combine our complementary communities. We will bring together expertise from the bioscience, chemistry, engineering, environment, mathematics, economics, social and policy sectors to drive technological innovation through to market adoption founded on economic, social and environmental sustainability.

BBNet will energise the UK bio-based sector and make the UK an attractive place for international companies to develop new technologies. We will bring together the industry and academic players needed to drive innovation, and provide resources to catalyse their activities. BBNet will provide an information hub to gather sector intelligence to inform policy makers, researchers and businesses, and help develop an enabling regulatory framework for innovation. We request an initial 5 years of funding to establish BBNet.

Planned Impact

BBNet will serve as a national focal point for the biomass biorefinery sector, bringing together businesses and academics interested in the replacement of fossil carbon resources with low carbon alternatives that are sourced in a manner that is compatible with food security. BBNet will consolidate the successes and communities built in several Phase 1 NIBB including LBNet, P2P, FoodWasteNet and aspects of PhycoNet. BBNet will build from this strong base by encouraging new companies and researchers to participate in industrial biotechnological approaches to biorefining. BBNet will support research collaborations to later stage TRL through close coordination with BioPilotsUK, through small grants allowing lab-scale work to be prepared for scale up and allow some initial pilot scale trials.

We anticipate impacts that will benefit the economy, environment and society of the UK. The most immediate beneficiaries will be the small and large businesses that will benefit from the interactions and collaborations with the UK's world leading science base that will be made possible by BBNet. BBNet will bring businesses and researchers together around major challenges and opportunities and provide research funding to develop these new relationships and ideas. We will encourage recipients of BBNet funds to use these to generate proof of principle data that can be used to secure greater investment and progress their work towards delivering new business opportunities. This will lead to increased economic activity and new employment in the sustainable industrial bioeconomy.

By encouraging innovation in the area of sustainable low carbon replacements for petroleum-derived fuels, chemicals and materials, the work of BBNet will bring impacts that help the UK meet its carbon emission reduction targets and help mitigate against the worst impacts of climate change brought about by global warming. By focusing UK biorefining technologies of waste and residues, we will increase UK sustainability through better use of resources, decreased use of landfill and a more circular economy. We will encourage the use of life cycle analysis to ensure that the environmental benefits from the work we sponsor is maximised.

UK society will benefit from the economic and environmental benefits that will be realised from biomass biorefining and the widespread use of sustainable biorenewable products. We will work to ensure that the UK public is made aware of the potential and realised benefits of biorenewable replacements for petroleum-derived products by developing, and circulating, good news stories around BBNet and its community's activities. BBNet will respond to areas that grab public attention, such as the current interest in plastics in the marine environment, illustrating how our work could make an impact that could improve this situation (by the greater use of degradable bioplastics for example).

The UK research community will benefit from greater access to resources to pump-prime new research activities, greater engagement with industry and clearer pathways to impact from their research. The Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy community will benefit from the service BBNet will undertake in developing and implementing clear lines of communication with UK policy makers to ensure that the full potential benefits of this community to the future of the UK is realised, and that this realisation is reflected in supportive national policies and funding.

BBNet will develop an international presence through engagement with other nations active in the sector, especially those involved in "Mission Innovation". We will take a leading role in engaging participation of leading researchers and businesses from other nations in our activities and ensure that the UK has a strong voice at international IBB events.


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Description The Biomass Biorefinery Network (BBNet), a phase II BBSRC NIBB, is a dynamic community of industrial and academic practitioners who work together to develop new and improved processes for the conversion of non-food biomass into sustainable fuels, chemicals and materials. To support this aim, BBNet will offer research funding and organise events. BBNet currently has 793 members drawn from industry, academia and other organisations. Funding Proof of Concept (POC) call launch and projects funded: 1st Round: POC sandpit workshop leading to POC funding: the objective was to develop concepts and teams to take on our Grand Challenge in the area of Biomass Processing (from feedstock to products). At the end of the workshop teams applied for up to £50K for POC projects. Target audience: Industrial practitioners and academics: 9-10/10/2020 1st BBNet Challenge Workshop (sandpit) "Bio-based Material: Challenges and Opportunities" leading to Proof of Concept funds. Location: Park Inn Hotel, York. 3 POC projects were awarded 2nd round: In September 2020 we had the first POC open call. 3 POC project were awarded 3rd round: POC call (Zoom launch event) "Biobased technologies for a sustainable textile economy" (24/03/21). 3 POC project were awarded. 4th round: POC joint funding call launch 19/09/21 (BBNet, Algae-UK and IBioIC) "Biorefining marine Biomass". 2 POC project were awarded. (One funded by Algae UK and the other one by BBNet) 10 POC projects were awarded in total Business Interaction Vouchers (BIV) 1st BIV call (up to £20K per project): 2 projects were awarded. 2nd BIV call (up to £10K per project): 1 project was awarded. Open call (up to £10K): 3 projects were awarded. 6 BIV projects awarded in total Landscape documents commissioned by BBNet The documents are core to informing our funding strategy. Topics are principally identified by the Management Board and through consultation with our membership and are intended to provide intelligence around opportunities and barriers to biomass biorefining in the UK: -2020, Biorefining and Industrial Biotechnology - UK Policy Landscape, NNFCC -2021, Pre-treatments to enhance the enzymatic saccharification of lignocellulose: technological and economic aspects, Jesmond Engineering Ltd and Anglia Science Writing Ltd. This report is on the BBnet website and the Launch date was 16/06/21 (Zoom event) -2022, UK Bioeconomy Intensive Pathways: The role of the bioeconomy in achieving UK 2050vNet-Zero targets. The MacKat Calculator. (Work in progress) BBNet events 13/10/20 BBNet Strategic Coordination Zoom Meeting. 30 delegates from Industry, academia and Policy makers attended the half-day event. 13-15 /10/21 1st BBNet Conference "Bio-manufacturing on the road to net zero carbon economy" Our first BBNet annual conference attracted 102 delegates who actively enjoyed 3 days of engaging presentations and networking opportunities with leading academics and industrialists in the field of bio-manufacturing. The conference took place at Shrigley Hall, Macclesfield. 28/01/22 MacKay Calculator validation workshop, via Zoom. 35 participants BBNet Management Board (MB) Meetings: -07/05/19 1st BBNet MB Meeting (Kick-off meeting), University of York -11/10/19 2nd BBNet MB Meeting, Park Inn Hotel, York -03/12/19 3rd BBNet MB Meeting, The Megaro Hotel, London -07/05/20 4th BBNet MB Meeting, via Zoom -23/11/20 5th MB Meeting (POC evaluations), via Zoom -07/12/20 6th BBNet MB Meeting, via Zoom -21/04/21 7th BBNet MB extraordinary meeting (Planning of the Annual Conference) -23/07/21 8th BBNet MB Meeting, via Zoom -13/10/21 9th BBNet MB Meeting, in person Shrigley Hall, Macclesfield -27/01/22 10th BBNet MB Meeting, via Zoom Policy engagement -ECR training session "Policy engagement training/ workshop for early career researchers ( Policy engagement for early career researchers: the biomass strategy and beyond)", 2021 o Engagement - event/ workshop o 11 - 50 people o Online workshop "Policy engagement for early career researchers: the biomass strategy and beyond" held for early career researchers (ECRs) from BBNet, along with the Supergen Bioenergy Hub, the High Value Biorenewables Network, and the Carbon Recycling Network. After an introduction to policy engagement and tips for engaging, ECRs took part in discussions of key policy areas for the networks involved, which helped to inform future policy work. A number of ECRs registered interest in being involved with policy engagement in the future and have been/ will be involved in policy engagement activities such as consultation responses or meetings as a result. • Call for evidence response -2021 o Evidence submitted to Government Call for Evidence on the Role of Biomass in Achieving Net Zero o Policy - Participation in a national consultation o The Biomass Biorefinery Network contributed to a joint response to the recent Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Call for Evidence on the role of biomass in achieving net zero. The evidence submission was developed in collaboration with Supergen Bioenergy Hub, the Carbon Recycling Network, and the High Value Biorenewables Network. A number of researchers from the Biomass Biorefinery Network contributed to the development of the response and provided evidence. • Biomass Policy Statement - expert discussion with BEIS - 2021 o Engagement - event/ workshop o 1 - 10 people - policy makers o After their publication of, o Representatives of the Biomass Biorefinery Network joined members of the Supergen Bioenergy Hub, and the Carbon Recycling network in attending an online meeting with policy makers in the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) after BEIS published the Biomass Policy Statement in November 2021. The meeting was organised so that policy makers could get expert input and discuss key topics for the development of the UK Biomass Strategy. Policy makers made requests for researchers to share evidence on particular topics following the meeting, and plans were made for follow up discussions in a number of areas. • High level information to BEIS - we (SBH, BBNet, HVB, and the carbon recycling network) did prepare a document gathering high level information/evidence on biobased chemicals and materials to support policy makers before Christmas, following a request for information.
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Chemicals,Energy,Environment,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology
Impact Types Economic