Future Biomanufacturing Research Hub

Lead Research Organisation: University of Manchester
Department Name: Chemistry

Abstract

Industrial Biotechnology (IB) is entering a golden age of opportunity. Technological and scientific advances in biotechnology have revolutionised our ability to synthesise molecules of choice, giving access to novel chemistries that enable tuneable selectivity and the use of benign reaction conditions. These developments can now be coupled to advances in the industrialisation of biology to generate innovative manufacturing routes, supported by high throughput and real-time analytics, process automation, artificial intelligence and data-driven science.

The current excess energy demands of manufacturing and its use of expensive and resource intensive materials can no longer be tolerated. Impacts on climate change (carbon emissions), societal health (toxic waste streams, pollution) and the environment (depletion of precious resources, waste accumulation) are well documented and unsustainable. What is clear is that a petrochemical-dependent economy cannot support the rate at which we consume goods and the demand we place on cheap and easily accessible materials. The emergent bioeconomy, which fosters resource efficiency and reduced reliance on fossil resources, promises to free society from many of the shortcomings of current manufacturing practices. By harnessing the power of biology through innovative IB, the FBRH will support the development of safer, cleaner and greener manufacturing supply chains. This is at the core of the UKs Clean Growth strategy.

The EPSRC Future Biomanufacturing Research Hub (FBRH) will deliver biomanufacturing processes to support the rapid emergence of the bioeconomy and to place the UK at the forefront of global economic Clean Growth in key manufacturing sectors - pharmaceuticals; value-added chemicals; engineering materials. The FBRH will be a biomanufacturing accelerator, coordinating UK academic, HVM catapult, and industrial capabilities to enable the complete biomanufacturing innovation pipeline to deliver economic, robust and scalable bioprocesses to meet societal and commercial demand.

The FBRH has developed a clear strategy to achieve this vision. This strategy addresses the need to change the economic reality of biomanufacturing by addressing the entire manufacturing lifecycle, by considering aspects such as scale-up, process intensification, continuous manufacturing, integrated and whole-process modelling. The FBRH will address the urgent need to quickly deliver new biocatalysts, robust industrial hosts and novel production technologies that will enable rapid transition from proof-of-concept to manufacturing at scale. The emphasis is on predictable deployment of sustainable and innovative biomanufacturing technologies through integrated technology development at all scales of production, harnessing UK-wide world-leading research expertise and frontier science and technology, including data-driven AI approaches, automation and new technologies emerging from the 'engineering of biology'.

The FBRH will have its Hub at the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology at The University of Manchester, with Spokes at the Innovation and Knowledge Centre for Synthetic Biology (Imperial College London), Advanced Centre for Biochemical Engineering (University College London), the Bioprocess, Environmental and Chemical Technologies Group (Nottingham University), the UK Catalysis Hub (Harwell), the Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre (Glasgow) and the Centre for Process Innovation (Wilton). This collaborative approach of linking the UK's leading IB centres that hold complementary expertise together with industry will establish an internationally unique asset for UK manufacturing.

Planned Impact

The FBRH will promote the emergence of a globally competitive UK biomanufacturing supply chain. Major impacts will include: new knowledge and technical innovation; economic benefits (growth of a sustainable bio-based economy); and societal well-being. These impacts will be across the EPSRC prosperity outcomes for a productive, healthy and resilient nation where delivery of biomanufacturing will provide solutions for major societal grand challenges and will include:

1. New knowledge and technology

By connecting the UKs leading research Centres with real world industrial challenges, the FBRH will accelerate delivery of economically attractive, robust and scalable biomanufacturing processes to meet societal and commercial demand through industrial partnerships and co-created research programmes. Specific impacts will be:
a) Accelerated discovery and delivery of biocatalysts and processes, with faster optimisation to enable their use earlier in manufacturing programmes and allow realisation of the full benefits for 'right first time' biomanufacturing solutions.
b) Innovative technologies that open up routes to: rapid isolation of robust production strains; disruptive production platforms; drop-in and scaled biomanufacturing solutions.
c) Smoothed pathways that change the economic reality of scaling bio-based processes by addressing the entire manufacturing lifecycle, considering key aspects such as process intensification, continuous manufacturing, and whole-process modelling, thereby de-risking new and future technology adoption by UK industry.

2. Economic

The FBRH will connect academic discoveries with the industrial challenges of scale-up and integration to drive commercial viability. The FBRH will catalyse the industrialisation of biology to disrupt manufacturing bottlenecks, deliver broader applications and provide the required step-change in biomanufacturing capabilities. This will drive sustainable and clean manufacturing that will build a high value bioeconomy. Specific economic impacts will:
a) Enable UK technology leadership in key global industries, growing a strong knowledge base and infrastructure connections to support high value manufacturing sectors.
b) Reduce manufacturing costs through efficient, optimised and scalable downstream bioprocesses that deliver eco value-added products (e.g. reduced costs and waste products; increased resource efficiency and productivity; reduced environmental impact and carbon footprint).
c) Utilise alternative feedstocks that reduce dependency on petrochemicals, exploit waste streams, address fluctuations in the supply and demand value chain and provide dependable novel manufacturing chassis for sustainable solutions.
d) Provide 'ready to deploy' and robust continuous flow manufacturing processes that are modular and widely applicable.

3. People, societal and policy

These are aligned to the EPSRC prosperity outcomes for a healthy and productive nation. Specific impacts will:
a) Inspire and train the next generation, address skill-gaps and re-skill the scientific and engineering workforce with a positive impact on UK high value jobs and investment that enables the UK to compete in global markets.
b) Address major societal grand challenges by delivering alternative routes to chemicals, pharmaceuticals and materials manufacture through to sustainable energy, whilst providing clean growth.

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