Integrated bioreactor platform for rapid scale-up and translation

Lead Research Organisation: University of Manchester
Department Name: Chem Eng and Analytical Science


In order to meet the UK Government's sustainability and clean growth targets there is a clear need for a switch from crude oil derived petrochemicals to biobased alternatives produced from renewable resources. To address this sustainable biomanufacturing routes are urgently required to remove the dependence of chemicals production on fossil fuel derived raw materials. This goal is central to the UKRI National Engineering Biology Programme theme of Clean Growth and the genesis of a Circular Economy and reduction of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, all of which are enshrined in Net Zero/Clean Growth targets in the UK Government's Industrial Strategy. This transition from a reliance on petrochemicals to sustainable biomanufacturing presents major challenges across Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs). Industrial transition to a Clean and Circular Bioeconomy is linked to innovations at low TRL, the proposed bioreactor platform will facilitate the transition to higher TRLs, providing a key step to pull through academic discovery to process verification. The new platform will build on major strategic UK government investments in UoM hosted Centres of Excellence, and further support Manchester as the UK epicentre for sustainable chemicals manufacturing, leveraging excellence in biocatalysis and synthetic biology, and combining this with biochemical engineering and fermentation process development expertise for successful scale up and industrial translation.

The requested integrated bioreactor platform will fill a recognised gap in the UK's process development and scale up capability and will support the engineering development of scalable processes for technically feasible and economically viable biobased chemicals production. To achieve this the bioreactor platform will provide capability spanning small-scale parallel fermentation for quick screening and lab benchtop bioprocess development to scale up and process design and optimisation. The advances in research translation and the increase in commercialisation opportunities enabled by the bioreactor platform will facilitate the switch from fossil to bio-based chemicals, providing a renewable route to the products used in daily life.

Technical Summary

World-class UK academic capabilities and new approaches to engineering biology promise to transform chemicals production and deliver routes for the sustainable bio-manufacture of the chemicals, materials and fuels that underpin global society. However, whilst biomanufacturing provides the opportunity to convert renewable carbon containing materials into these day to day essentials, decoupled from fossil fuel consumption, lab scale developments have not yet transitioned through to large-scale commercial application. As highlighted in the recent KTN "Engineering Biology for the UK" report, infrastructure is urgently required to scale biobased chemicals production using biocatalytic, biological and biochemical engineering approaches. The requested strategic equipment will support a critical step towards research translation and scalability, bridging the gap from small-scale laboratory discovery through to establishing technical feasibility, where scaleup and process demonstration is paramount for translation.

By providing an integrated solution for fermentation process development from 500mL to 3L to 40L scale, the bioreactor platform will provide multiscale capability to accelerate process development, driving increased translation and facilitating commercialisation. This will allow for rapid parallel testing of strains, media, carbon sources etc., fermentation process development, e.g. substrate feeding profiles and demonstration of process scalability and technoeconomic viability. Overall, this equipment bid will support a wide range of UKRI/BBSRC funded projects that address major challenges in the key strategic areas of synthetic biology, bioenergy, food nutrition and health and industrial biotechnology.


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