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Plan to help firms tap into lucrative biotech sector

A STRATEGY to increase turnover from industrial biotechnology (IB) in Scotland from £189 million to £900m by 2025 will be unveiled in Switzerland today.

The National Plan for Industrial Biotechnology attempts to help Scotland tap into a market potentially worth £360 billion by encouraging more sustainable manufacturing processes and more businesses to diversify into the sector.

There are presently about 40 companies involved in IB projects in Scotland, but according to Scottish Enterprise there is the potential to grow to 200 by 2025, in sectors such as life sciences, oil and gas and food and drink.

The strategy has been co-ordinated by Chemical Sciences Scotland, which has drawn input from the public and private sectors, including academics from Scotland's leading universities and companies such as Celtic Renewable, Ineos and Ingenza. It sets out to raise awareness of industrial biotechnology, address skills shortages and establish innovation centres in Scotland, as well as look into setting up a biorefinery or biochemical facility.

Caroline Strain, head of chemical sciences at Scottish Enterprise, which helped facilitate the strategy, said: "The opportunity is that Scotland is not currently geared up for this.

"We reckon there are about 43 companies across Scotland who are currently using industrial biotechnology.

"But the plan estimates that by 2025 we will have at least 200. It really is a cross-sector technology. One of the biggest ones will be the chemical sciences sector, but there is a huge opportunity in some of the other sectors like life sciences.

"We have got very great strength in depth in life sciences in terms of biotechnology which is currently focused on human healthcare.

"There is an opportunity to give it a second focus in industrial application."

Industrial biotechnology (IB) involves using biological resources, such as waste wood and plastic and municipal solid waste, as an ­alternative to the traditional oil and gas feedstock at the front end of chemical processes.

It also involves using biological resources like yeasts instead of traditional catalysts such as heat or metals in manufacturing. Biotechnology can be used to produce intermediate and final products ranging from energy to high-value chemicals which are used to make items like plastic bags and car dashboards.

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