Friday, 19 May 2017

Industrial Biotechnology in Scotland


Industrial Biotechnology (IB) is defined as a set of cross-disciplinary technologies that use biological resources for producing and processing materials and chemicals - these can be end products in themselves or additives for another end product.  The biological resources can be derived from tissues, enzymes and genes of plants, algae, marine life, fungi and micro-organisms. IB is helping to "Heal the world, feed the world, fuel the world" according to the Biotechnology Innovation Organisation ( Using the adjective "industrial" implies large scale production, but this is not always the case.

Here's a fascinating table (fascinating to me anyway!) of how things used to be manufactured (not nice) and how they can be  manufactured now we're using biotechnology (nicer for both consumer and climate). Both chemists and chemical engineers (as well as microbiologists, physicists, materials scientists, molecular biologists etc) are frequently employed in the sector.

Scotland is home to a number of biotechnology pioneers. See website for Scottish biotech companies. This is actually a great map for all EU countries - there are some biotech companies in places you would not think of looking. For inclusion on this map, the company needs to have a revenue of > $1million and to have its own innovative technology, so there ARE other biotech companies around who are not on this map. For a less exclusive map of Scottish companies, see Scottish Enterprise Chemical Sciences.

Scotland even has a national plan for industrial biotechnology and is blazing a trail on many fronts, eg:
  • Cellucomp was Scotland's first biorefinery plant, turning vegetable waste into high-performance household materials.
  • Celtic Renewables is another - they produce environmentally and commercially-sustainable biobutanol from the liquid effluent produced by the £4 billion malt whisky industry.
  • Then there's Marine Biopolymers Ltd (MBL). Their focus is on extracting high-value components from brown seaweed. It's used in food and pharmaceuticals, but also industrial applications areas as well, where the use of natural polymers is growing fast.
The BioIndustry Association has a member directory (search on biotechnology) with over UK 300 biotech companies details listed.

The UK Science Parks Association is also a good place to start when trying to find potential employers (search on members). Biotechnology companies are usually quite small and so tend to group together at Science Parks (11 listed for Scotland and well over 100 in UK).

For other ways of finding potential employers, see previous posts on Chemistry employers and Chemical Engineering employers.