The biggest ever single UK public investment in bioenergy research has been announced on 27 January by the main funding agency for the biosciences - the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).
The £27M BBSRC Sustainable Bioenergy Centre has been launched to provide the science to underpin and develop the important and emerging UK sustainable bioenergy sector - and to replace the petrol in our cars with fuels derived from plants.
Sustainable bioenergy offers the potential to provide a significant source of clean, low carbon and secure energy, and to generate thousands of new 'green collar' jobs. It uses non-food crops, such as willow, industrial and agricultural waste products and inedible parts of crops, such as straw, and so does not take products out of the food chain.
Minister of State for Science and Innovation, Lord Drayson, said: "Investing £27 million in this new centre involves the single biggest UK public investment in bioenergy research. The centre is exactly the sort of initiative this country needs to lead the way in transforming the exciting potential of sustainable biofuels into a widespread technology that can replace fossil fuels.
"The centre is a great example of the UK investing in innovative areas which have the benefits of creating new green collar jobs as well as helping us to meet the global challenges of climate change and reducing carbon emissions."
The BBSRC Sustainable Bioenergy Centre is focussed on six research hubs of academic and industrial partners, based at each of the Universities of Cambridge, Dundee and York and Rothamsted Research and two at the University of Nottingham. Another 7 universities and institutes are involved and 15 industrial partners across the hubs are contributing around £7M of the funding.
The Centre's research activities will encompass many different stages of bioenergy production, from widening the range of materials that can be the starting point for bioenergy to improving the crops used by making them grow more efficiently to changing plant cell walls. The Centre will also analyse the complete economic and environmental life cycle of potential sources of bioenergy.
This means the researchers will be working to make sustainable bioenergy a practical solution by improving not only the yield and quality of non-food biomass and the processes used to convert this into biofuels but ensuring that the whole system is economically and socially viable.
BBSRC Chief Executive, Prof Douglas Kell, said: "The UK has a world leading research base in plant and microbial science. The BBSRC Sustainable Bioenergy Centre draws together some of these world beating scientists in order to help develop technology and understanding to support the sustainable bioenergy sector. The Centre is taking a holistic systems-level approach, examining all the relevant areas of science needed for sustainable bioenergy and studying the economic and social impact of the bioenergy process.
"By working closely with industrial partners the Centre's scientists will be able to quickly translate their progress into practical solutions to all our benefit - and ultimately, by supporting the sustainable bioenergy sector, help to create thousands of new 'green collar' jobs in the UK."