February 24, 2016

For UK’s Synthetic Biology Community, a ‘Roadmap’ Evolves into ‘Strategic Plan’

Synthetic Biology
Life Sciences Minister, George Freeman MP, visited SynbiCITE at Imperial College London, the UK innovation and knowledge centre for synthetic biology, to announce the release of the UK Synthetic Biology Strategic Plan 2016 — Biodesign for the Bioeconomy.

For the last four years, the vision and direction for the United Kingdom’s synthetic biology community has been spelled out in a 32-page report titled “A Synthetic Biology Roadmap for the UK,” produced by an independent panel of experts under the auspices of the government’s Department for Business Innovation and Skills. Among its major recommendations was the establishment of a “leadership council” to serve as a “visible point of coordination” and to “oversee the continual development and delivery of the vision and roadmap.”

Hence the Synthetic Biology Leadership Council (SBLC) was created, its mission officially defined as providing strategic coordination between funding agencies, the research community, and industry and government sponsors and other stakeholders. The council devoted much of 2015 to consulting a broad cross-section of businesses and the research community on the needs of the UK synthetic biology industry and ways to support its rapid development. Today the results of its work were released in a new report titled “Biodesign for the Bioeconomy: The UK Synthetic Biology Strategic Plan 2016.”

In its advisory announcing the report, the SBLC described the plan as aiming to “accelerate the commercialization of synthetic biology products and services with clear public benefit, building upon the strength of the UK research base.”

The plan focuses on five areas of strategic importance:

  •      Accelerating industrialization and commercialization
  •      Maximizing the capability of the innovation pipeline
  •      Building an expert workforce
  •      Developing a supportive business environment, and
  •      Building value from national and international partnerships

“With help from government investment in world-class research facilities, including £50m for dedicated research centres, DNA facilities and training, UK capability in synthetic biology has made rapid progress in recent years and we are now in pole position to capitalise on this potential,” said Life Sciences Minister George Freeman MP, who was scheduled to announce the report’s release at SynbiCITE, an Innovation and Knowledge Centre in synthetic biology established in 2013 at Imperial College London. “This strategy sets out a clear plan to ensure the UK maintains its position as a global leader by taking our world-leading research and turning it into commercial opportunities.”