Today Bio-Based World News is in Yorkshire and the Humber, in the north of England, to gain an insight into plans to make the region an international hub for the bio-economy. Located neatly in-between the hubs of commercial centres of London and Edinburgh, the region already possesses a strong set of bio-economy assets: a number of top class research institutions, a large and innovative agricultural sector, a ready supply of biomass and existing bio-based companies operating in the biofuel, chemical and food sectors from large multinationals to small businesses. At the heart of this is BioVale, an open innovation cluster drawing together the regions strengths, and addressing its weaknesses. Our Editor Luke Upton, looks at BioVale’s development, aims and speaks exclusively to Maggie Smallwood its Executive Team Leader.
Yorkshire and the Humber is home to 10% of the UK’s bio-economy, despite being only 6% of its area. Launched in 2014, the BioVale cluster is aiming to ensure the region wins a larger share of the rapidly expanding bio-economy market. Its goals are ambitious; the bio-economy – already worth around £8.7 billion to the region – could rise to £12 billion by 2025, and provide an extra 800 jobs if BioVale succeed in helping fulfil its potential. BioVale (@) is focussed on prioritising aspects of the industry where there are existing regional strengths and the greatest opportunity for economic growth and environmental benefit. They take a particular focus on valorisation of biowastes, high value chemicals from plant and microbes, lignocellulosic fuels and chemicals and agri-tech innovation.
A trained bio-chemist and an expert in innovative use of biorenewables in a low carbon economy Maggie shared some more about the origin of BioVale: “The region is already a strong player in the bio-economy. And this has come from a number of supporting factors; the region is home to 11 universities, we are already the home of 1000s of small and medium-sized enterprises working in the sector, we have the largest concentration of food and drink business in the country, Drax, the UK’s largest power station, is investing millions to become largely biomass fuelled plant and our geography and transport links offer excellent access to national and international markets.”
“However, despite these strengths the regional bio-economy lacked cohesion. The various assets were not fully integrated or linked up. There was sometimes a lack of awareness of how other business and organisations fitted into the bio-economy. And what help and support was available, Sometimes solutions for companies were literally just round the corner, but they didn’t know they were there! One of the key aspects of success in our sector is effective supply-chain management and a lack of unity in the bio-economy can harm this” added Maggie.
BioVale aims to increase this cohesion within the regional bio-economy and bridge the gap between the local knowledge base and industry both in a local and international level. Acting as a ‘one-stop shop’ for businesses in the bio-economy, from the initial Research & Development through the ‘valley of death’ through to commercial products. The BioVale offering encompasses a wide variety of aspects including networking, open access research, training and exchange of skilled staff, support for regional bio-based supply chains, development of appropriate business growth space, inward investment and trade/export, advocacy with policy makers and much more.
(Picture top left,signing Ceremony at the 2015 EFIB Forum in Brussels: Horst Mosler (Cluster Manager BioEconomy Cluster), Dr. Ir. Willem Sederel (CEO Biobased Delta), Dr. Joe Ross (Director BioVale Cluster), Prof. Dr. Matthias Zscheile (Chairman BioEconomy Cluster), Rop Zoetemeyer (Biobased Delta), Thierry Stadler (President IAR Cluster).
As our time comes to a close, I ask Maggie what the next big milestone for BioVale is: “We have lots of exciting developments coming together for 2016 and it has been fantastic this year to see our community growing. One big area for us in 2016 is the launch of our Special Interest Groups (SIGs). They will provide members with specific forums to network, exchange views and share best practice with their peers. The first one is focussed on Anaerobic Digestion, which offers a huge opportunity for our members. And we are also planning ones on extracting value from bio-wastes advanced biofuels and bio-refineries, high-value products from plants, agricultural technology and more. We are growing our numbers all the time, membership is easy to apply for and currently free of charge. So looking forward to growing further as BioVale and the bio-economy as a whole grows and develops.”
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