Strategic recommendations for improving the bioeconomy, specifically with a view to closing the loop and creating value from biobased waste, have been released by the House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee.
The Committee exists to “consider science and technology”, and have compiled the report which calls upon the government to redefine waste as a resource; one that could potentially drive the production of biofuels for transportation and domestic heating, and provide alternative routes to petrochemicals for the production of commodity chemicals.
Entitled Waste or resource? Stimulating a Bioeconomy, the report called upon a host of contributors, including UK PLC, government departments and industry groups such as ADBA and WRAP. The Centre for Process Innovation (CPI), a UK technology centre and part of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult were cited as crucial in the context of the inquiry and as an exemplar for UK innovation centres. CPI helps companies to design and develop the next generation of products and processes that can support the emerging bioeconomy. They do this by reducing the risk associated with developing new technologies by providing expertise and pre market proof of concept demonstration facilities.
The report investigated the technology surrounding the processing of wastes into high value products and the economic and environmental benefits to the UK. The report also highlighted the potential scale of the UK bioeconomy and the role the government can play in nurturing this high growth industry.
“The report is directly aligned to our business model here at CPI.” says Dr Steve Pearson, Head of Business & Strategy for CPI’s Sustainable Processing team. “We have ongoing programs in key areas highlighted in the report. These will not only be of benefit in the wider ambition to access the value locked up in waste, but will also be of commercial benefit to businesses who want to find viable alternatives to petroleum-based chemicals.”
The report makes it clear that there is still some way to go to achieve the vision of a sustainable society underpinned by the utilisation of waste. CPI recommended that “If there is a strong desire to grow the bio-economy then the incentives and funding environment needs to be changed to support it.”
The report highlights that the UK could miss the bioeconomy opportunity and with it a thriving multibillion-pound economy built around wastes if significant funding into innovation centres such as CPI is not increased to levels available to similar European institutions. It also noted that the UK needed technology innovation centres to help drive technology commercialisation and exploitation in the UK.
Dr Graham Hillier, Director of Strategy and Futures at CPI said “We are delighted to see that the work we are doing is recognised and valued and this is proven in that we were called upon to give considerable input into the inquiry. There is a huge opportunity and potential for creating value from this underutilised resource and we are proud to be able to say that we are heavily involved in helping to address this for the future.”
Lord Krebs, chair of the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee said “Our investigation has revealed that the UK, which generates hundreds of millions of tonnes of waste every year, has the scientific know-how and the industrial will to turn this waste into wealth.”
“We are concerned that the Government is not seizing this opportunity – there is a huge amount at stake here, economically and environmentally, and no single department appears to be leading the way” he continued.
“Our report clearly shows that where there’s muck, there’s brass. Waste, traditionally seen as a problem, needs to be viewed as a hugely valuable resource, one which could generate a substantial economy of its own. We must not let this opportunity pass us by.”