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Industrial biotechnology

Industrial biotechnology uses enzymes and micro-organisms to make bio-based products in sectors such as chemicals, food and feed, detergents, paper and pulp, textiles and bioenergy. The University of Edinburgh is providing businesses with the expertise to deliver the environmental benefits, resource conservation, innovative new products, enhanced performance and reduced costs promised by industrial biotechnology.

Together we are:

  • conducting cutting-edge research in industrial biotechnology
  • creating novel technologies that can accelerate business growth
  • applying these technologies commercially in partnership with industry
  • enhancing the growth of existing companies and powering the creation of new spinouts
  • delivering advanced multidisciplinary training


Key areas of expertise

Staff Bootcamp

Novel Feedstocks

Alternative feedstocks for high value chemical manufacture, e.g. lignocellulose.

  • Optimised biosynthesis of high-value plant natural products, e.g. using plant stem cells
  • Identification of plant cell wall polymers and novel cell wall enzymes.
  • Novel viral vectors and plant systems for production of proteins and biologics.

Optimised chassis organisms

Optimised chassis organisms (e.g. CHO, yeast)

  • Safe harbour landing pads for stable plasmid insertion.
  • Yeast Fab library of synthetic yeast parts.
  • Robust methods for automated assembly of large DNA molecules.
  • Computational modelling tools to design biological pathways and circuits



  • Mining extremophiles for novel enzymes.
  • Molecular evolution and selection to improve enzyme function.

Downstream processing

  • Biosensors for in-situ monitoring of downstream processing
  • Single-cell analysis of cellular behaviour during processing.
  • Novel technologies to optimise product separation.



  • Bioremediation using biotechnology
  • Reclamation of rare metals using engineered bacteria

Facilities at the University of Edinburgh

The University of Edinburgh is host to an extensive range of facilities, equipment and expertise which can be accessed by companies and organisations for in-house projects. Find out how to access the facilities, equipment and expertise at the University, or to discuss a particular project in greater depth.

Explore all facilities in the College of Science and Engineering


Facilities available at the University of Edinburgh for Industrial biotechnology

Centre Optical Instrumentation Laboratory (COIL)

  • Confocal and multi-photon imaging
  • High accuracy motorised stage for multipoint imaging and tile scanning • Environmental chamber ambient to 45°C
  • Perfect focus for long-term timelapse
  • Spectrometer detection for all visible wavelengths
  • High sensitivity GaAsP detectors

Edinburgh Plant Growth Facility

  • Tissue culture facilities for the maintenance and propagation of plant tissue culture materials
  • 3 temperature controlled rooms with 45m2
  • 2 walk-in growth rooms with a total of 80m2 of shelving. One room is running at long day conditions (16 hours light) and one in short day conditions (9 hours light)
  • 5 Snijders Economic Deluxe and 2 Snijders MicroClima growth cabinets
  • The Grodome is used for growing transgenic host plants and two smaller chambers for research into plant pathogens
  • Glasshouses and outdoor plots

Edinburgh Protein Production Facility (EPPF)

  • Production and purification of proteins
  • Biophysical analysis of proteins and ligands
  • Biophysical characterisation
  • Pre-clinical drug discovery

Flow Cytometry Core

  • Multi-parameter measurement of biological particles
  • Cell counting
  • Cell sorting
  • Detection of biomarkers
  • Protein engineering

Synthsys (Centre for Synthetic and Systems Biology)

  • Edinburgh Genome Foundry
  • Kinetic Parameter Facility
  • Laser Enabled Analysis and Processing (LEAP)
  • Single cell analysis and microscopy
  • Plant phenomics
  • Data management and models
  • Chemical translational biology

Computational Modelling & Fermentation

  • Ultra-fast chemical physiscs
  • Quantum-mechanical modelling of materials
  • Quantum-classical modelling of enzyme-catalysed reactions
  • Classical modelling of soft matter computational drug design
  • Create organisms to spec
  • Produce milligrams and grams of recombinant proteins
  • Produce recombinant expression constructs for E. coli and Pichia Pastoris
  • Fermentation of the above on a 10 –15 litre scale for protein production

Crystallography, Single crystal and Powder X-ray diffraction

  • Detailed study of organic or organometallic complexes providing chemical identity, molecular conformation and crystal packing analysis
  • In situ single crystal growth by laser heating

Mass Spectrometry and Protein Characterisation (SIRCAMS)

  • MALDI or Liquid Extraction Surface Analysis (LESA)
  • Spatial distribution of endogenous molecules, drugs and metabolites
  • 3D statistical analysis and construction of 3D images
  • Intact mass determination
  • Bottom-up and top-down proteomics
  • Hydrogen-deuterium exchange
  • Ion mobility
  • Non-covalent interactions and native mass spectrometry

Phenotyping Facilities 

Specialist resources for measuring multiple parameters of cell physiology including proteomics, metabolomics and fluxomics.

Plant Science Facilities

Specialist resources for measuring multiple parameters of cell physiology including proteomics, metabolomics and fluxomics.

Innogen Institute

Research and consultancy around the ethical, legal and social implications of emerging technologies including synthetic biology.

UK Biochar Research Centre

Provides advice and expertise on biochar production and its application in resource management and sustainable energy.Facilities available:

  • Biochar production and analysis of energy rich co-products
  • Applications of biochar
  • Feasible development for sustainable resource management

Centre for Science at Extreme Conditions

Generates and exploits new ideas and discoveries in the field of extreme conditions science including novel actives and enzymes from extremophiles. Facilities available: 

  • High-pressure diffraction
  • Low-temperature measurement
  • Magnetism, astrobiology and shielded X-ray laboratories


Read about our current projects and success stories 

Unilever PLS

A multinational consumer goods company is working with the University of Edinburgh and the John Innes Centre to produce plant derived triterpenoidal or steroidal surfactants, saponins, in yeast for commercial exploitation at the required scale, structure specificity and cost. Unilever will use these products for home and personal care applications.

Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories Ltd.

A multinational pharmaceutical company is working with the University of Edinburgh to improve the activity of a key enzyme using evolution and selection techniques. This has enabled Dr Reddy’s Laboratories to produce a range of chiral intermediates.


A material science company at the forefront of developing high-tech products from sustainable sources is working with the University of Edinburgh to characterise their biocomposite materials. This has enabled Cellucomp to modify their production processes and produce tailor made materials for different applications.

Contact us to find out how we can help