This week, industry and academics got together for an Academic Industry Meeting day (AIMday) to discuss the solutions University of Edinburgh academics can offer industry in the field of living systems, biological materials and bio-engineering.
Before the meeting, companies submitted industry challenges they face in areas such as biotechnology, biobased materials and bioinformatics and, on the day, academics from across disciplines volunteered their expertise in response.
Organiser Hjalmar Eriksson of Edinburgh Innovations, the University’s commercialisation service, said:
This was an opportunity for industry partners to set the agenda and discuss novel ways to find solutions to their business problems. ”
There are advantages for both sides in working together. Attendee Professor Joyce Tait of the Innogen Institute, said: “Questions brought up by companies can lead to PhD students refocusing their work – they are questions research students will need to answer if they want to commercialise later.”
Picture: Impact Solutions' Idriss Elkettani (L) and Dr Galvin Leung (R) with the University's Professor Louise Horsfall
Ian Archer is technical director of the Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre. He said:
There can be a gap between what happens in the research lab and being able to scale it up. Hopefully, by involving us early we can help researchers prepare to scale up. And we can co-develop tools that advance both research and industry. ”
Hjalmar Eriksson observed: “The University’s capabilities in designing new bioprocesses and materials are vast and often pioneer developments later applied by industry. In some sessions, the question back to industry partners was to define what compounds and material properties they want to manufacture through bioprocesses, as our experience can deliver new pathways and products.”
Fruitful discussions included how to update industrial bioreactors, the costs of using bacteria to outcompete oil in manufacture of materials, improving the soil microbiome and speeding up genomic DNA data analysis.
Possible projects emerging, which might access the fund available through the University of Edinburgh’s EPSRC Impact Acceleration Account, include using Scotland’s geothermal energy to fuel industrial bioreactors and a consumer demand analysis of ‘green’ versus non-sustainable products.
The day’s conversations occasionally solve a problem quickly, but more often lead to industry collaborations and long-term partnerships. The partnership with multinational engineering services company Babcock – hosting FastBlade, the world’s first regenerative fatigue test facility for tidal turbine blades at Babcock's Rosyth dockyard – was accelerated through Babcock’s participation in AIMdays and other EI events. Another example is Aqualution Systems, which was able to meet increased disinfectant manufacturing needs during the pandemic thanks to the University’s process automation and advanced manufacturing capabilities.
The Edinburgh Innovations team is, right now, following up on introductions and potential collaborations coming out of the day. Hjalmar Eriksson concluded:
Let’s make ideas work for a better world!”
AIMday® is a registered trademark of Uppsala University. The University of Edinburgh through Edinburgh Innovations is the AIMday hub for the UK