New £100m engineering biology fund backing projects from life-saving medicines to reducing plastic pollution

Six new Engineering Biology Mission Hubs and 22 Mission Awards, to transform solutions in areas like vaccine development, textile manufacturing and food production

Funding for six new UKRI Engineering Biology Mission Hubs and 22 Mission Award projects, that will unlock the potential of engineering biology, was announced today by Andrew Griffith, Minister for Science, Research and Innovation.

Engineering Biology has enormous potential to address global challenges, drive economic growth, and increase national security, resilience, and preparedness. These Mission Hubs and Awards projects will play a key role in achieving the goals of government’s National Vision for Engineering Biology that was announced in December 2023.

Involving multiple academic and industrial partners

The Hubs will each receive up to £12 million from the UKRI Technology Missions Fund and UKRI and BBSRC’s core budgets. They will be funded for five years, be based across the country, and involve multiple academic and industrial partners.

The successful Hubs will be led by:

  • Cranfield University
  • Imperial College London
  • University of Edinburgh
  • University of Kent
  • University of Nottingham
  • University of Portsmouth

This week minister Griffith visited the new GlycoCell Hub based at the University of Nottingham to understand how it is helping to exploit engineering biology to produce new vaccines, diagnostics, and therapeutics, by industrialising the bio-manufacture of sugar biomolecules crucial to their development.

This Hub aims to deliver a platform that will be central to UK epidemic preparedness.

Power to transform our health and environment

Announcing the funding the Science, Research and Innovation Minister, Andrew Griffith, said:

“Engineering biology has the power to transform our health and environment, from developing life-saving medicines to protecting our environment and food supply and beyond.

“Our latest £100m investment through the UKRI Technology Missions Fund will unlock projects as diverse as developing vaccines, as I saw Nottingham this week, preventing food waste through disease resistant crops, reducing plastic pollution, and even driving efforts to treat snakebites.

“With new Hubs and Mission Awards spread across the country, from Edinburgh to Portsmouth, we are supporting ambitious researchers and innovators around the UK in pioneering groundbreaking new solutions which can transform how we live our lives, while growing our economy.”

The Hubs will be complemented by a series of Mission Awards that will fund projects for two years and receive a share of £30 million funding. The Awards aim to create an expansion of engineering biology disciplines and communities, building on existing UK strengths and emerging opportunities.

Tackling major global challenges

Dr Amanda Collis, UKRI Technology Mission Director for Engineering Biology and interim Deputy Executive Chair of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) said:

“UKRI is investing £100million to unlock the potential of Engineering Biology across a broad range of applications, tackling major global challenges and stimulating economic growth.

“This investment builds upon the UK’s significant strengths in Engineering Biology.  The Hubs and Mission Awards will support collaboration between disciplines, with business, and across the regions and nations of the UK, as well as enable partnership with other countries.  Together they make an important contribution towards realizing the ambitions set out in the UK Government’s National Vision for Engineering Biology.” 

Dr Kedar Pandya, UKRI Technology Missions Fund Senior Responsible Owner and Executive Director of Cross-Council Programmes at UKRI’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council said:

“Engineering Biology is one of the critical technologies for the UK strength and opportunity identified in the Innovation Strategy. It has the potential to change many aspects of our lives, from how we grow our food, to developing new medical treatments, and on through to clean growth that will develop more environmentally sustainable manufacturing processes and supply chains, as well improved diagnosis of, and cures for, environmental issues.

“These new Hubs and Missions projects will enhance the UK’s already strong pedigree in the field and bring societal and economic benefits to the country. UKRI is investing £320 million in Technology Missions to enable new and existing capabilities and capacity in artificial intelligence, quantum technologies, engineering biology and future telecommunications in the years 2023-2025 and beyond.”

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