European Community Discuss Future Direction for Collaboration in Industrial Biotechnology

Representatives from five companies actively involved in collaborative projects in the field of Industrial Biotechnology and specifically 4 SMEs from within the KYROBIO project discussed the benefits of such activities and set out their views for the future. The discussion was introduced and chaired by Professor John Woodley (Technical University of Denmark) and involved:

Dr Kai Baldenius (BASF). BASF is the world's leading chemical company. They offer intelligent system solutions and sophisticated products to most industries. Currently BASF margins from biotechnology activities are small but the future outlook is positive and further confidence is gleaned as Diversa Corporation and BASF entered into a broad alliance that will leverage Diversa's leadership position in novel enzyme development.

Dr Kay McClean (C-Tech Innovation and coordinator of KYROBIO project). C-Tech Innovation provides a wide-ranging consultancy service designed to maximise innovation and business opportunities. They help organisations to implement new processes and create new products, assist them in knowledge transfer and in commercialisation and business support. They have expertise in bespoke reactor design and specialise in thermal, electrochemical, flow, pharmaceutical and chemical parameters.

Dr Henk-Jan Joosten (Bio-Prodict). Bio-Prodict is focused on delivering solutions for guiding scientific research in the field of protein engineering, molecular design and DNA diagnostics. They apply novel approaches to data mining, storage and analysis of protein data and combine these with state-of-the art analysis methods and visualization tools to create custom-built information systems for protein super families.

Dr Simon Charnock (Prozomix). Prozomix Limited is a privately owned research orientated UK biotechnology company that develops, produces and supplies a large, diverse and rapidly expanding range of novel enzymes and related advanced products and services for Biocatalysis and other focus areas, such as Biofuels and the Biorefinery.

Prof Roger Sheldon (CLEA Technologies). CLEA Technologies B.V. was originally founded to further develop and commercialize “Cross-Linked Enzyme Aggregates” (CLEAs) a novel and proprietary enzyme immobilization technology.

The initial discussion focused on the benefits the SME organisations had seen from participating in FP7 funded projects. Kay McClean stated that FP7 projects are a “good environment for SMEs” adding that the access and availability of funding is vital in building collaborations and identifying new customers as ultimately participation in European funded projects is to improve bottom line. Similarly Roger Sheldon said that FP7 funding enabled synergy, collaboration and innovation through the networks and, specifically for CLEA, had resulted directly in 5 new products. Henk-Jan Joosten stated that thanks to FP7 funding, Bio-Prodict had been able to recruit the students that originally developed the technology, tools and techniques behind the company’s success. Simon Charnock added that fundamentally the funding secured under FP7 allowed Prozomix to engage in speculative research. However, broader benefit was observed since having an FP7 grant instilled trust in the company as being collaborative gives confidence that they have longevity.

A number of other questions were posed by the audience and discussed:

What is the best model for productive academic/industrial collaboration in H2020?

The panel and audience discussion stated that as the Framework 7 programme has progressed, the academic / industrial collaboration has improved and we shouldn’t lose that momentum as we head into H2020. An increase in industry input is required as the projects head up the Technology Readiness Levels (TRL) and getting industry involvement upfront and early on in the process often leads to better success. A greater emphasis on process integration and engineering is required in IB projects in H2020 and industry must play a key role here. However, the model should be kept pre-competitive as too many large industry players could result in a counterproductive outcome.

Should we establish a virtual Centre of Excellence in Industrial Biotechnology?

It was discussed that a network of excellence would be a better way forward, formally bringing together the network of projects that have been funded in IB that already exist as a ‘virtual cluster’. However, this would need to be cross sector based, would need to encompass more engineers and focus also on biorefineries. Keeping flexibility would also be a requirement, allowing network members to ‘enter’ and ‘exit’ as appropriate.

Do ‘pockets’ of IB technology exist that have been developed under FP7 which need to be integrated under H2020 to be exploited?

Nick Turner suggested that partial solutions to IB problems may well exist within the wider community and consolidation of this information could lead to an answer, solution or further lines of investigation. One suggestion for capturing this information was arranging meetings with project officers from other consortia with a view to bridging technology gaps.