The UK Minister for Life Sciences has reinforced the importance of industrial biotechnology in underpinning a sustainable economy during his keynote address at the Industrial Biotechnology Showcase 2015. George Freeman visited exhibitions from leading companies in the industrial biotechnology sector, including a display of the market’s first biodegradable coffee pods made from materials developed by Biome Bioplastics (biomebioplastics.com).
Taking place over two days at the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre in London, the Industrial Biotechnology Showcase brings together leading manufacturers using biological substances, systems and processes to produce materials, chemicals and energy.
Opening the conference this morning, Freeman, the UK's first ever Minister for Life Sciences spoke about the huge opportunity for the industrial biotechnology sector to drive and underpin a more sustainable, 21st century model of growth. The Minister affirmed that “nowhere is our proprietary strength more profound than in industrial biotechnology” and referenced projected growth of up to £360bn globally by 2025.
After a busy morning, the Minister took a few moments to relax with a coffee at Biome Bioplastics’ exhibition stand. Single-serve coffee machines are now extremely popular, with an estimated 200 million capsules being sent to UK landfill every year. Happily, the Minister was able to dispose of his coffee pod in a compost bin because Biome Bioplastics’ materials are based on natural, renewable resources and are fully biodegradeable.
Everyday examples of industrial biotechnology such as the coffee pods were showcased alongside cutting edge research and development in the industrial biotechnology field. Biome Bioplastics’ CEO Paul Mines explained to the Minister how the company is using industrial biotechnology to develop the next generation of biopolymers. With support from Innovate UK and the BBSRC, Biome Bioplastics has undertaken pioneering research with the University of Warwick that has successfully demonstrated the feasibility of extracting organic chemicals from lignin for the manufacture of bioplastics.
Lignin is the second most abundant organic polymer on earth. It is found naturally in organic materials like wood and is produced industrially as a by-product of the pulp and paper industry. Biome Bioplastics’ pioneering work with lignin has the potential to accelerate the global bioplastics market by significantly enhancing performance while reducing cost.
“Biome Bioplastics' mission is to produce bioplastics that challenge the dominance of oil-based polymers and ultimately replace them completely,”explains Mines. “Industrial biotechnology is allowing us to move past the barriers that have traditionally faced the bioplastic market and we welcome the Minister’s support for this important sector.”