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Government advisers look to York experts for insight into bio-waste

Posted on 8 September 2016

A delegation of top Government officials visited the Biorenewables Development Centre (BDC), a University of York subsidiary, this week to investigate how waste can be converted into valuable products to benefit the UK economy.

The Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Mark Walport; Chief Scientific Adviser to the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), Professor Ian Boyd; and Mark Turner, of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) were on a fact finding mission to explore how a waste-based bio-economy might help the UK thrive. 

The Green Investment Bank has estimated there could be an investment opportunity of £5 billion in the UK waste market by 2020. Organisations across Yorkshire are working together to make the most out of this opportunity by turning unavoidable bio-wastes including, household and food processing waste into products, such as antibiotics, anti-fungal compounds, and biofuels. 

Director of the BDC, Joe Ross, said: “We currently rely heavily on fossil resources, but these are finite and cannot meet the demand for future generations. The BDC focuses on harnessing developments in industrial biotechnology and green chemistry to support the transition to a low-carbon economy, which will ultimately replace oil refineries with biorefineries.” 


The delegation visited the BDC’s Research and Development facilities at York Science Park and Dunnington to meet clients, including local company, Wilson Bio-Chemical, who are working with the BDC to scale-up their technology for turning household waste into biofuels and high-value products. They also discussed research collaboration with GSK, and Veolia to convert food by-products into antibiotics. 

Sir Mark Walport said: “It is great to see first-hand how the chemistry and biology science base at the University of York is working with industry to solve some of the major challenges they face.  

“Organisations like the Biorenewables Development Centre (BDC) and their partners who are doing pioneering work to turn municipal waste into reusable products such as biofuels and chemicals will help make UK businesses more sustainable and more competitive.” 

Add value

The Steering Group for local innovation cluster, BioVale, which is composed of leading industries working in the bioeconomy as well as academics and policy makers, demonstrated how to add value to bio-waste and what the Government can do to help develop a waste-based bioeconomy. 

The York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Local Enterprise Partnership (YNYER LEP) Chair, Barry Dodd, also announced a new £10 million bioeconomy Growth Fund to boost local bio-based innovations. 

Barry Dodd said: “This is about creating a future economy based on renewable resources rather than finite, fossil fuels. With our area’s growing strengths in the biorenewables industry plus our excellent research organisations, this will enable our area to become a global leader in the sector.”

Further information:

Note for editors

1. BioVale and the BDC are funded by the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Department for Communities and Local Government is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund. Established by the European Union, European Regional Development Fund funds help local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. For more information visit

2. BioVale and the BDC is supported by the Higher Education Funding Council For England (HEFCE)

3. For further reading regarding building a high-value bioeconomy from waste products visit:

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