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Manchester leads green chemical training push

20 Jan 2011

The University of Manchester is leading a £3.7m project to train the next generation of biotechnologists to make chemical processes greener.

The ‘European biotechnology training network for the support of the chemical manufacturing industries’ (BIOTRAINS) programme brings together microbiologists, enzymologists, chemists, engineers and process development experts involved in the training of the next generation of scientists who will develop green manufacturing methods for the chemical industry.

Led by Professor Nick Turner, Director of the Centre of Excellence for Biocatalysis, Biotransformations and Biocatalytic Manufacture (CoEBio3: www.coebio3.org), the four-year project involves eleven partners from academia and industry who will recruit and train research fellows and another six industrial partners who are offering placement training.

Funded by the European Union FP7 programme, the project is expected to make a major contribution to efforts to replace traditional chemical manufacturing – reliant on highly toxic chemicals and solvents – with so-called ‘white biotechnology’.

White biotechnology employs the power of natural biocatalysts and modern manufacturing techniques to deliver safer and less-environmentally damaging industrial methods.

White biotechnology is a term used mainly in Europe for the application of nature’s catalysts, such as enzymes and cells, in biotechnology for industrial purposes.

The use of the word ‘white’ distinguishes it from other biotechnologies such as ‘red’ (medicinal) and ‘green’ (plant) biotechnology.

The term covers the manufacturing of chemicals, alternative energy and biomaterials and has the potential to enable economies to become less dependent on fossil fuels.

At a recent project review meeting in Basel Professor Nick Turner said: “We have been fortunate to recruit some of the very best postgraduate students from the world to participate in BIOTRAINS.

"The progress that they have made in a relatively short space of time is impressive and bodes well for the future of this training network."