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UK Plans Synthetic Biology Knowledge and Innovation Center

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The UK government plans to establish a center that will focus on synthetic biology science as part of a broad initiative to cultivate and promote new national industrial capabilities, a senior government official said yesterday.

In a speech outlining a range of government plans to foster new innovation-driving industries, UK Business Secretary Vince Cable said the government will establish the Innovation and Knowledge Centre (IKC) for Synthetic Biology in response to a recent independent report advising that the UK should seek to become a world leader in the synthetic biology field.

The recent Roadmap for Synthetic Biology report urged the UK to invest in a network of multidisciplinary synthetic biology centers, including an IKC. And synthetic biology has been identified by the government's Technology Strategy Board as one of a few innovation areas that can have an impact on future economic and business growth.

In his statements, Cable also said that the UK plans on Oct. 8 to launch a competition for synthetic biology research projects funded with £6.5 million ($10.5 million). As GenomeWeb Daily News reported in May, the Advancing the Industrial Application of Synthetic Biology initiative will fund competitive grants going to companies and research organizations of any size to conduct feasibility studies that show how synthetic biology can be used in commercial settings.

Unveiling of the Roadmap report in July, Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts said that synthetic biology "has the ability to revolutionize major industries in bioenergy and biotechnology in the UK. If we develop this exciting area to its full potential there are fantastic opportunities in sectors such as biofuel and medical care that are largely untapped."

The Roadmap report cited an analysis by BCC Research that concluded that the global synthetic biology market will grow from $1.6 billion in 2011 to $10.8 billion by 2016.

Also in July, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council said that it would join the ERASunBio network, an EU program with 16 partner countries supported by €2 million from the EU's Seventh Framework program.

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