Martine Daute

An innovative UK-wide programme to support PhD level students wishing to turn academic projects into business solutions to support the greener economy is now open for applications. There are 15 funded places available, open to students at all UK universities starting in October 2021.

Scotland’s Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre (IBioIC) working in conjunction with the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council is offering this opportunity to students as a Collaborative Training Partnership (CTP).  Over the 4 years of study and research students will be supported by its academic institution in collaboration with the IBioIC who provide bespoke technical, commercial and personal growth training and support for the students in a programme called “Ready for Industry”.

The CTP is not about solitary research and differs from a purely academic PhD.  Martina Daute is a student from the cohort of 2017 studying at Abertay University in cooperation with the Scotch Whisky Research Institute, is about to complete her studies.  She explains:

“My project researches the influence of different yeast strains on whisky fermentation and how they affect the final flavour character of the spirit.  Being part of a cohort IBioIC students helps to make great contacts in other research institutions all over Scotland and the UK leading to company visits, new ideas and meeting academic and industrial researchers, lots of whom I would never have met through a purely academic PhD.”

The programme is industry-led and all applications must include one industrial partner.   The IBioIC is particularly keen to attract SME’s who may need help to resource industrial biotechnology (IB) research and development.  Each PhD student will spend at least three months and more usually a year working in their industrial partner’s facilities to provide valuable commercial and industrial experience.

Successful applicants will benefit from the valuable practical, commercial and industrial personal development offered by the IBioIC.  It creates a UK-wide learning community with opportunities to network with researchers, academics and companies in the growing industrial technology sector.  PhD students will be part of a cohort of students who will meet regularly and share ideas.   The aim is to create a large and diverse network of early career researchers in industrial biotechnology with connections to a wide range of industry partners.

Current research projects being supported by the scheme includes a project at Leeds University to find a way to delay or even stop the blackening phenomenon in carrots to increase lifespan and shelf-life. This will reduce the number of  bags of carrots to be thrown away, causing unnecessary food waste and commercial loss. Studies also include looking at carbon capture using engineered bacteria and using by-products of seaweed extracts for the potential use of the management of obesity.

Ray O’Donnell Head of Science at FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies (FDB) in the United Kingdom says that “FDB have established a collaboration with three of the UK’s top Universities in the Centre of Excellence in Bioprocessing 2.0. The aim is to link fundamental research and world-class expertise to the business needs of FDB, creating an innovation engine that drives new processes, efficiencies, products and services. As part of the collaboration, we have been fortunate to be an industrial partner in an IBioIC CTP studentship investigating the complex biochemical pathways present in cellular organisms used for the production of advanced medicines. This CTP partnership is a fantastic way to bring together industry and academia with benefits in both the advancement of science and commerce in the UK. The time in the University and industry, along with the IBioIC training provided for the studentship, adds an additional dimension, preparing the participants for challenges beyond their doctorate.

Ian Archer, Technical Director, IBioIC, says: “ We are looking forward to supporting the next generation of green jobs, where industrial biotechnology scientists will make fundamental advances and help grow the IB sector.  We currently support over 50 SME-led projects and a further 25 from research studies from large to multinational companies.   This PhD scheme is providing skills and expertise that underpin the ambitious plan to grow the IB sector and support the greener economy.”

The Collaborative Training Partnership is supported by funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), Scottish Funding Council (SFC) and industrial partners.  The 2021 cohort will include 15 funded  BBSRC studentships with the IBioIC offering 50% funded studentships to up to three students.

Kate Buckle
Article by Kate Buckle
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