£12m EU backed BEACON+ bio-refining research and innovation project gets the ‘green’ light

Researchers from Swansea University’s Medical School are to share in a new £12 million investment in Wales’ ‘green’ economy announced today (Thursday, December 3) by Welsh Government Finance and Government Business Minister, Jane Hutt.

Backed by £8 million of EU funds, the BEACON+ project will see scientists from Aberystwyth, Bangor and Swansea Universities working with industry to develop renewable materials, fuels and chemicals.

The funding will enable specialists in bio-refining to develop research and product innovation with 100 small and medium sized businesses in North, West Wales and the South Wales valleys.

BEACON Minister Visit 2015

Finance Minister Jane Hutt also visited Swansea’s Medical School today, to meet those involved in the BEACON project, including Institute of Life Science researchers Professor Steven Kelly and Professor Diane Kelly who co-lead Swansea’s role, and to see first-hand how the new funding will help build on the achievements it’s made so far.

Bio-refining is the scientific process of transforming plants into valuable chemicals and commercial products such as cosmetics, fuels, pharmaceuticals, textiles and health products.

The project aims to create over 100 new products or processes in partnership with businesses over the next four years.

Today’s investment allows the participating Universities to build on the success of the first BEACON project, which created closer links between Welsh academia and industry in the area of low-carbon technology, and won the EU’s prestigious RegioStars award for its contribution to sustainable growth.

Finance Minister Jane Hutt said: “Today’s £8 million EU investment in the BEACON+ project is excellent news which will allow businesses in Wales to benefit from advanced scientific research to develop new products, create jobs and grow Wales’ low-carbon economy.”

The Swansea research team is focused on developing their expertise in using bacteria and fungi to digest, or ferment, plant matter within the bio-refining process.

Professor Steven Kelly said: “Swansea University and its Medical School research arm, the Institute of Life Science, is extremely pleased with the Minister Jane Hutt’s announcement of BEACON+ funding via Welsh Government’s Wales European Funding Office and with European Regional Structural Funding.

“This builds on a track record of Aberystwyth, Bangor and Swansea Universities working together that won the 2014 RegioStars prize for the best project in the area of sustainable growth in the EU.  The project will work with industry to explore green products with a Swansea focus on microbiology, fermentation and molecular biology.”

Director of BEACON at Aberystwyth University, Professor Iain Donnison, said: “BEACON is driven by the challenging targets for the adoption of green technologies and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions that have been set by national governments and the European Union.

“Low carbon technologies including bio-refining and industrial biotechnology are seen as important growth sectors and will need sustainable supply chains that will generate economic activity and jobs, and it is these that provide the focus for the work being done in and for Wales at BEACON.”

Professor Julie Williams, Chief Scientific Adviser for Wales, said: “EU programmes are playing an important role in supporting research and innovation, and helping to create scientific breakthroughs here in Wales.

“This is an excellent project that will build on the world-class research already taking place at Welsh universities, and create long-term benefits, both economically and environmentally.”

For more information on BEACON click here.