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UK Pledges $16M for Center to Boost Synthetic Biology Business

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – As part of a new push to ramp up the UK's synthetic biology business sector, the UK government plans to provide £10 million ($16 million) over five years to fund the creation of a center that will accelerate development of new synthetic biology technologies toward commercialization.

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) said today that it wants proposals from institutions interested in founding an Innovation and Knowledge Centre (IKC) in Synthetic Biology that will support and develop new businesses in this industry.

The creation of an IKC Centre in Synthetic Biology is a central part of the UK Roadmap for Synthetic Biology, a long-term strategic plan unveiled this summer that aims to boost and coordinate investments in a fledgling field that the government eyes as a significant growth area.

"Synthetic biology is still at an early stage of development, but its potential is widely considered to be very high. It is a platform and translational technology linking a broad range of foundational science with an extensive range of possible applications," BBSRC said today.

The roadmap report, commissioned by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills, 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.

"Synthetic Biology has the ability to revolutionize major industries in bioenergy and biotechnology in the UK," Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts said in a statement when the roadmap was released. "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 advised that an IKC in Synthetic Biology would help commercialize new technologies and integrate academic and business efforts.

The IKCs are aimed at accelerating the commercial exploitation of emerging fields by creating "early-stage critical mass, allowing businesses from different sectors to develop and exploit the technology," and by providing these companies access to scientific, technological, and market expertise and to lab facilities and technologies, according to the call announcing the funding.

The IKC in Synthetic Biology must possess or have direct access to core capabilities in synthetic biology; a shared environment to enhance collaboration; facilities and equipment that are necessary for conducting synthetic biology projects; flexible capabilities in companion and enabling technologies; market analysis and development capabilities; and professional management capabilities for handling internal and external intellectual property assets.

Along with BBSRC, the funding program will be supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the Technology Strategy Board.

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