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    In connection with the £27 million announced for bioenergy research by the main UK funding agency for the biosciences - the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), renewable energy focus looks into some of the projects that could benefit from this cash injection.

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UK public investment in bioenergy

The biggest ever single UK public investment in bioenergy research has been announced by the main UK funding agency for the biosciences - the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

The £27 million BBSRC Sustainable Bioenergy Centre has been launched to provide the science to underpin and develop the UK sustainable bioenergy sector - and to replace the petrol with biofuels.

The Centre's research activities will encompass 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.

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 seven universities and institutes are involved and 15 industrial partners across the hubs are contributing around £7m of the funding.

BBSRC Chief Executive, Prof Douglas Kell, says: "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.

BSBEC’s hubs and programmes:

  • BSBEC Cell Wall Lignin Programme - improving barley straw for lignin production and transferring the new knowledge to other crops. The programme aims to alter lignin properties in barley to make it easier to produce bioenergy without reducing the quality of the crop.
  • BSBEC Cell Wall Sugars Programme - developing strategies to improve plants and enzymes for increased sugar release from biomass.
  • BSBEC Lignocellulosic Conversion to Bioethanol (LACE) Programme - using agricultural and wood-industry wastes to create biofuels. The programme is aiming to optimise the release of sugars from plant cell walls to produce a fermentable material to produce fuels. It will also work on microbes to efficiently turn the material into fuel.
  • BSBEC Marine Wood Borer Enzyme Discovery Programme - new enzymes for the conversion of non-food plant biomass into biofuels from marine wood borers.
  • BSBEC Perennial Bioenergy Crops Programme - optimising biomass yield and composition for sustainable biofuels. The programme aims to improve yields of fast growing trees and grasses and to make more of the plants' carbon available for conversion into biofuels and to do this without increasing inputs such as fertilizers.
  • BSBEC Second Generation Sustainable, Bacterial Biofuels Programme - optimising production of the more effective second generation biofuel biobutanol from non-food biomass.

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