Minister for Science, Research and Innovation Andrew Griffith MP has revealed a £2 billion Government plan to “seize the potential of engineering biology”.

The National Vision for Engineering Biology has set out the Government’s £2 billion plan to “harness the power of biology” to deliver new crop varieties as well as eco-friendly fuels, chemicals and new medical therapies.

Engineering biology applies principles of engineering to biological systems, producing cultivated meat and turning waste into aviation fuel.

Minister Andrew Griffith said: “Engineering biology is, in many ways, the future of science: using engineering to harness the power of nature to overhaul what is possible – from the treatment of disease to how we sustainably produce food and fuel.

“I am determined to ensure that the UK remains at the cutting-edge of this exciting field. This £2 billion vision sets out how we will bring all the levers of investment, policy and regulation to bear in ensuring that, safely and responsibly, we seize the potential for engineering biology breakthroughs to boost our economy, create jobs, and improve everyone’s quality of life.”

An Engineering Biology Steering Group will be launched, aiming to bring policymakers together with the business leaders and innovators behind transformational engineering biology breakthroughs being made in the UK in order to steer the Government’s approach to this technology.

Bringing people together to guide policymaking

The engineering biology vision sets out six priorities for delivering the benefits of this technology, of which the new Engineering Biology Steering Group is one. The Government said it will bring together both the current and the next generation of academic, start-up and industry leaders to help guide policymaking.

The Department for Science, Innovation and Technology has said it will:

  • Target public investment towards engineering biology R&D that will enable innovation breakthroughs and the creation of new products, investing over £2 billion over the next 10 years
  • Invest in UK infrastructure to reduce the costs of both the early stages of engineering biology innovation and its scale-up, developing a plan for UK facilities supporting start-ups and scale-ups in 2024
  • Grow and retain a “diverse talent pool” within the UK to match demand from academia and industry, covering scientific, technical and entrepreneurial skills while investing in fellowships and doctoral training
  • Work across Government and with all relevant regulatory bodies to ensure that the UK’s regulatory landscape will help engineering biology-derived products to reach the market
  • Work with Government to “spearhead the adoption of engineering biology in the wider economy”, working with investors and customers and showcasing engineering biology firms
  • Make the UK a “world leader in responsible engineering biology innovation” by 2030.

The Science Department said that Government will lead an “open dialogue” on the benefits, limitations and risks of the technology, encouraging a renewed commitment to responsible research and innovation. It also said it would work with allies and partners to shape international norms and standards, including through multilateral forums.

Steve Bates OBE, CEO of the UK BioIndustry Association (BIA), said: “Engineering biology is a transformative technology that will enable us to tackle some of our biggest challenges, from genetic diseases to climate change and feeding a growing population. It is fundamental in driving the biorevolution that will transform our global society and unlock economic growth in the years to come.

“The UK’s long-standing expertise in combining modern technology with biology gives us a competitive advantage in this key growth area. We therefore welcome the Government’s focus on engineering biology as a strategic priority for the UK and global development.”