May 22, 2015

A Refreshed Version of the UK Synthetic Biology Roadmap

Lionel Clarke
Lionel Clarke, Co-chair of the UK Synthetic Biology Leadership Council, moderating the International Strategies Panel Discussion at SynBioBeta London 2015.

The Synthetic Biology SIG team and The Knowledge Transfer Network are organizing a consultation workshop in Birmingham on June 16th to refresh the UK Synthetic Biology Roadmap, which is nearly three years old. The work is being led by Lionel Clarke, Co-chair of the UK Synthetic Biology Leadership Council. The outputs of the workshop will be presented to the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills later this autumn.

The UK was amongst the first to recognise the opportunities raised by synthetic biology by funding academic studies, and by stimulating initiatives to help companies develop new products and services. In 2012, an independent panel of experts worked tirelessly for six months to produce the Synthetic Biology Roadmap, based on recommendations from more than 70 stakeholders from industry, academia, public bodies and other organizations. Its primary purpose was to “establish a vision for synthetic biology in the UK, and to identify the processes that must be applied to realise it,” providing a “framework within which to consider future options and coordinate actions.”

What were the five core themes for the UK Synthetic Biology Roadmap?

A number of recurring ideas, observations and issues relevant to the development of synthetic biology were gathered into five core themes that are mutually linked:

  • Foundational science and engineering: recognizes innovation in academia and multidisciplinary confluence as key drivers of synthetic biology, and the need for sufficient capabilities for the UK to maintain a leading edge.
  • Continuing responsible research and innovation: The technology must be developed responsibly. Unintended consequences can be avoided through awareness, training, and adherence to regulatory frameworks. To achieve this, the UK has encouraged interaction between funders and regulators, and initiated public dialogue in synthetic biology.
  • Developing technology for commercial use: relates to steps that need to be taken to take an idea from the lab to the market. It considers how to advance technologies to be applied in a broad range of markets, creating jobs and stimulating the UK bioeconomy.
  • Applications and markets: the identification of the markets and development of applications that can benefit from renewable and low-carbon biological materials, which include energy, agriculture, food, biobased chemicals, medicines, and others.
  • International cooperation: includes establishing international standards, involvement in education and training, and engagement with international policy bodies.
“Facilitating progression of an idea through to market in terms of speed and likelihood of success can be achieved by generating a more receptive and supportive operating environment and providing access to critical resources relevant to each stage of development. The precise requirements for any specific idea will be unique, but addressing these generic challenges will enhance the overall synthetic biology translation process”. Source: A synthetic biology roadmap for the UK, July 2012.

“Facilitating progression of an idea through to market in terms of speed and likelihood of success can be achieved by generating a more receptive and supportive operating environment and providing access to critical resources relevant to each stage of development. The precise requirements for any specific idea will be unique, but addressing these generic challenges will enhance the overall synthetic biology translation process”. Source: A synthetic biology roadmap for the UK, July 2012.

Interested in participating?

It’s time to reflect on the progress of the UK roadmap for synthetic biology, and determine what to do next. You can suggest ways in which the UK can develop their synthetic biology research base and industry by completing a brief survey by June 3rd. If you are interested in attending the workshop, you will be informed by June 5th.

If you have any questions or comments please leave them below.