Concrete from carrots – now that’s really clever!
January 31, 2019 by Ivan McKee MSP
Low CO2 concrete, made with by-products of the carrot industry. Sustainable, nutritional salmon feed generated from by-products from the whisky industry. Just two unlikely examples of the innovative technologies powering Scotland’s burgeoning biotech industry. In a nutshell, turning environmental challenges into opportunities and delivering real results to help us meet our climate change targets.
I’m excited about the cutting edge innovation taking place across Scotland’s businesses and universities. It plays a key role in driving Scotland’s economy and delivering our transition to a low carbon future. Nowhere is that more true than in the bioeconomy. It presents opportunities to use renewable biological resources, and the by-products of other industries, to produce much needed energy, food and other essential resources.
This Scottish Government is committed to being at the forefront of technological innovation, to lead on action against climate change and to tackle environmental challenges. We will continue to make the most of the economic opportunities our rich and diverse bioresources present while protecting our natural environment and its biodiversity.
When used and managed carefully, these renewable resources and by-products can create new products and reduce the need for fossil fuels.
Scotland has an emerging reputation in industrial biotechnology largely due to collaboration between industry, academia and government. We have strong leadership driving forward an ambitious growth strategy through the Scottish Industrial Biotechnology Development Group. Today, at the Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre’s (IBioIC) Annual Conference in Glasgow, I will announce the update of the National Plan for Industrial Biotechnology – an important step in the development of the industry in Scotland. The conference is the primary UK gathering of industrial biotechnology professionals with more than 450 participants from places like Germany, Finland and the US.
The National Plan, published in 2013, set a turnover target for the industry of £900 million by 2025. I am pleased to say the industry is on course to reach that target. Between 2012 and 2017 sales nearly doubled from £189 million to £357 million and with 122 biotech businesses now operating in Scotland there are now more than twice as many as there were in 2012. Nevertheless, the industry has recognised it cannot be complacent – so the National Plan has been refreshed. We need to aim higher, to rely less on fossil fuels and to deliver a greener and more sustainable economy. To support this, the Biorefinery Roadmap for Scotland is also being updated to focus on how the industry has evolved over the past few years.
The best way to grow is to learn from past experience. As a government, we know there is more we can do to help grow the Scottish bioeconomy and we share the same ambitions as industrial biotechnology businesses in Scotland – so I am keen to see more collaboration between government, industry and academia. We will work with the industry to help create the right environment to cultivate growth within these businesses. We need industry to reach out to us and let us know how we can work in partnership.
Industrial biotechnology is a disruptive technology. Continuing the industry’s dramatic growth will be challenging. There will be many unknowns but by understanding how we can help each other, we can build on our successes to make Scotland a hub of excellence in the bioeconomy – creating jobs and clean, sustainable growth for Scotland in the process.