In an interview ahead of ChemUK 2023, AZoM spoke with Russell Clarke from IBioIC about the company's work and the feature session they are hosting at the show.
Could you please introduce yourself and your professional background?
My name is Dr. Russell Clarke. I am a Senior Business Engagement Manager with IBioIC. IBioIC is a membership organization that was established in 2014 to help fulfill the aims of the National Plan for Industrial Biotechnology to grow the Industrial Biotechnology sector in Scotland to over £900 million in turnover by 2025.
I joined IBioIC in April 2020. I engage with our member companies to help them commercialize their technology. I have a specific focus on the chemicals industry. Before joining IBioIC, I spent 27 years in the chemical industry in the northeast of England and Grangemouth. During my time in the chemical industry, I worked for a number of companies, including Dow, CalaChem, and Thomas Swan in a variety of senior roles in operations, R&D, and business development.
What is biotechnology, and how is IBioIC engaged with it?
Industrial Biotechnology offers green and sustainable alternatives to fossil fuels – and this can be everything from energy to medicines and food packaging. Biotechnology holds one of the keys to unlocking the change we need to move from an economy largely reliant on fossil fuels towards the Net-Zero targets set for 2045 in Scotland and for the 2050 targets set at the UK level.
What are some of the ways that IBioIC connects industry, academia, and government?
IBioIC has a strong network that spans industry, academia, and government. This means that we can link companies with other companies, academics, or funding bodies. We do this by offering funding, skills development, and scale-up facilities. IBioIC has scale-up centers located at Heriot-Watt University and the University of Strathclyde. These facilities provide access to our expertise and technical support. We can help identify potential collaborators and support applications for various sources of funding.
In addition, IBioIC has developed a bespoke training program at Ph.D., MSc, and HND levels to ensure that the industry has the necessary skilled workforce to innovate in Scotland.
Why is this important for the field of biotechnology?
Biotechnology is a relatively immature sector, and so we hope that the support we provide will help commercialize early-stage concepts and ideas.
IBioIC is hosting a feature session at the ChemUK trade show in May, focusing on the commercial manufacture of existing chemicals using bio-based processes. Why is it important to shift the chemical industry in particular toward more sustainable production?
The chemical industry will have to comply with future regulations related to net zero emissions. As a result, it must move away from the use of raw materials, which are based on fossil fuels, and the use of biotechnology is one way that this could be achieved.
Image Credit: hramovnick/Shutterstock.com
Why do you believe it is important for IBioIC to engage with in-person trade shows such as ChemUK?
The benefit of ChemUK is that it is attended by representatives from across the chemical industry supply chain in the UK. This means that we have the opportunity to meet in person with a range of key industry representatives and develop key relationships, which we hope will lead to future collaborations.
Register here to attend ChemUK 2023
How far has the field of biotechnology changed in the time that IBioIC has been involved in this sector?
Since IBioIC was established in 2014, we have seen an increasing industrial awareness of the potential of Industrial Biotechnology as a potential route to net zero compliance. We now have over 140 members, and this number continues to increase.
The biggest challenge for the sector is that many of our member companies are micro or SMEs, and so they find it a challenge to make the transition from concept to commercial manufacture.
What developments are next on the horizon for IBioIC?
IBioIC will continue to modify its service offering to ensure that we provide the support which is required to facilitate the continued growth of the Industrial Biotechnology sector. I look forward to working with our members and the wider industry in the future.
About Russell Clarke
Russell graduated with a degree in Pure and Applied Chemistry from the University of Strathclyde in 1988 and a Ph.D. in Organometallic Chemistry from the University of St Andrews in 1993.
Thereafter he spent 5 years in research and development with Fine Organics and then Dow Chemical in the North East of England before moving into a commercial management role with Dow. He joined Thomas Swan in 2004 where he held a number of roles, latterly as Commercial Director for the Contract Manufacturing Business Unit.
Russell joined CalaChem Ltd in Grangemouth in 2012 and spent time in various functions including supply chain, operations and commercial before joining IBioIC in April 2020.
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