UK, India form bioenergy research collaboration

| November 21, 2011

Research teams in the U.K. and India will now work together to overcome three areas responsible for slowing the growth of biobased energy. Using a $10 million grant provided from the UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBRSC) and the Indian Government Department of Biotechnology (DBT), the BBRSC says U.K. and Indian researchers will work to address the following bioenergy hurdles:

- The identification, characterization and improvement of new enzymes for processing plants like algae.

- Microbe and systems development based on synthetic biology that can produce advanced biofuels from woody biomass or algae.

- Genomic alteration to improve algae strains, making those strains more suitable for biofuel production.

David Willetts, Minister of State for Universities and Science, called the collaboration “vital,” pointing out that using the expertise of both countries will help further develop bioenergy-based alternatives to fossil fuel use in both countries. The collaboration between the U.K. and India is the result of an October bioenergy workshop held in New Delhi, and as part of the collaboration any research effort funded by the joint-venture must have a researcher from both countries.

Although plants have the ability to provide alternatives to fossil fuels in the forms of transportation energy, biobased chemicals and plastics, Douglas Kell, BBRSC chief executive, says, “Doing this (creating bioenergy from plants) sustainably, ethically and economically will require the application of scientific expertise from around the world,” adding that “India and the U.K. are countries with strong and complementary research communities and it is exciting to be able to harness the skills of researchers from both nations to address these important global challenges.”

In October, the BBSRC opened a research center at the University of Nottingham that will allow researchers to study biofuels as well as the food and drink industry. The facility will be one of six BBSRC-led bioenergy centers that will work on biofuels from both industrial and agricultural waste materials.