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Urgent action needed to scale up UK’s burgeoning engineering biology expertise

必须采取紧急行动来促进英国新兴的工程生物学专业的发展

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【来源】: 英国皇家工程院
【时间】: 2019-11-30
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Urgent action must be taken by the UK to capitalise on the potential of its engineering biology research and industry base or it risks losing its world-leading position in the field, according to a report published today by the Royal Academy of Engineering. The report, Engineering biology: A priority for growth, calls for support from outside and within the various business sectors to accelerate commercialisation of world-leading UK research that it is on the verge of rapid expansion at a time when other nations are vying to dominate in this area.

Engineering biology applies rigorous engineering principles to designing biological systems, with potentially ground-breaking applications across a host of sectors: food, chemicals, materials, water, energy, health and environmental protection. From clothes made of spider silk, to meat alternatives and using microbes to manufacture fuels - engineering biology techniques are starting to provide sustainable solutions to many of our current challenges. In doing so they are creating new businesses that could make a huge contribution to the UK economy, whilst disrupting existing industries with faster, greener and cheaper products and processes.

The report recommends building better connections between well-established bio-technology companies and synthetic biology start-ups and spinouts to scale and adopt emerging technologies and ensure UK companies are international leaders in engineering biology. Businesses and universities need incentives to work together, the report finds, as this kind of collaboration could help overcome the inherent language barrier between the two groups and speed up the development of real-world products and services.

Engineering biology needs to be demystified, according to the report, as the technologies involved are often misunderstood, to ensure businesses, policymakers and the public are aware of the opportunities they provide. A further challenge highlighted in the report is that the relevant government-funded research networks and infrastructure need sustainable long-term investment for them to pay dividends.

Ian Shott CBE FREng, Academy project chair and Executive Chairman, Shott Trinova LLP and Arcinova, said:

“Engineering biology has the potential to solve many of the problems people and the planet face, now and tomorrow. Individuals, groups and communities working in engineering biology must get together at this important time and agree how they can build better connections and incentivise this collaboration to deliver more economic and societal impact.

“Innovation often happens across subject boundaries and engineering biology is a perfect example of this. It draws on genomics, data science and other disciplines, fuelled by major increases in computing power and growing capabilities of machine learning and AI, pushing the boundaries of what can be achieved.”

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