Report highlights potential of U.K. bioeconomy

By Erin Voegele | March 11, 2015

The U.K. government has published a policy paper that highlights the economic and environmental potential of the emerging bioeconomy. The report, titled “Building a high value bioeconomy: Opportunities from waste,” builds off of a report published by the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee last year, and estimates the U.K. bioeconomy could be worth £100 billion ($151 billion), with waste-based resources making a significant contribution to that value.

Within the report, the authors note that the U.K. is currently home to at least 121 industrial biotechnology businesses, and that many more entities can benefit from the application of industrial biotechnology processes for non-fossil-based feedstocks and for product development. While commerical-scale biorefineries that feature thermos-chemical and biochemical process technologies are becoming a realistic prospect, the report stresses more has to be down to realize the potential for new investment, supply chain regrowth and a step change in the contribution to economic growth and jobs from the nascent sector.

Within the document, the U.K. government indicates the report is designed to act as a starting point to articulate the opportunity of the bioeconomy and identify current components of the policy landscape. It also highlights actions the government is taking to support the bioeconomy sector and prevent barriers to its growth. These actions include mechanisms to support the industry in managing the complex legislative framework governing the bioeconomy, a strong incentives system, and maintaining a strong research base while taking steps to ensure skills supporting the sector continue to evolve. In addition, the government is providing funding, finance and infrastructure support where the need for specific support has been identified, and is creating a strong innovation ecosystem to help ideas flow smoothly from research to commercialization. Finally, the report notes the government is publishing data on the U.K. feedstock supply chain, which is key for investment security, where available.

The Anaerobic Digestion and Bioresources Association has issued a response to the report, noting the paper includes a commitment of investment support for the commercialization and scale-up of new innovation, including increased levels and accessibility of publicly available data on the U.K. feedstock supply chain.

“The government’s recognition that ‘collection and supply mechanisms’ are needed to ensure that uncontaminated food waste is delivered to AD facilities is hugely welcome. England in particular lacks the backing for source segregated food waste collections, and that should be a priority for the next government,” said ADBA Chief Executive Charlotte Morton.

“Government funding, finance and infrastructure support will be crucial in developing and commercializing new technologies, such as biorefineries and financially viable small-scale AD plants,” Morton continued.

A full copy of the report can be downloaded from the U.K. government website.