Biological Sciences

High-value chemicals from biotech: School scientists awarded almost half a million pounds in UK Government funding

Pioneering researchers in the School of Biological Sciences will benefit from a £477,015 cash boost from the UK government to use cutting edge biotechnology to produce high-value chemicals.

The two projects, led by Professors Louise Horsfall and Gary Loake, seek to use ingenious scientific methods to bring chemical products to market, using sustainable manufacturing practices. 

Academic institutions have teamed with industrial partners in this programme, to propose new ways of producing products for the vital UK chemical industry. 

Applying biological processes to the manufacturing of chemicals could result in lower carbon emissions and meet consumer demand for more sustainable products, which move away from using fossil fuel-based carbon.

The approach can also lower the energy costs compared to traditional chemical processes, and lead to the development of new materials with improved properties.

Professor Louise Horsfall

Professor Louise Horsfall

Louise Horsfall’s research group have been awarded almost £250,000 to develop a novel biological platform for more sustainable production of chemicals, materials and fuels from renewable resources. 

This work will lead to the development of unique new products, derived from wastes and by-products, and demonstration of their cost-efficient and energy-saving production using novel biomanufacturing technologies.

Her group will work with industrial partners Unilever, Ingenza and Diageo who will provide additional funds and support for the project.

I’m delighted to be working with three fantastic companies, Unilever, Ingenza and Diageo, who are leading sustainable-thinking for their sectors. We’re excited to show that synthetic biology and biotechnology can be used to help transition the UK to a more circular and bio-based economy.

Professor Louise HorsfallChair of Sustainable Biotechnology, School of Biological Sciences at the University of Edinburgh


Unilever is committed to removing all fossil-based ingredients from our cleaning and laundry products by 2030 as part of our Clean Future strategy. Together with the University of Edinburgh, Unilever will research naturally derived enzymes that are ideal replacements for fossil carbon-derived cleaning chemicals. The new enzymes will also perform at low temperatures, further reducing the environmental footprint of cleaning. Unilever is grateful to the BBSRC for supporting efforts to innovate for a more sustainable future.

Jonathan HagueVP Science & Technology, Unilever Home Care


Professor Gary Loake

Professor Gary Loake

Gary Loake’s research group have been awarded over £220,000 to develop an improved biomanufacturing platform for a key pharmaceutical.

The project will establish a sustainable, biomanufacturing platform for a World Health Organisation (WHO) essential medicine that is currently produced largely by unsustainable manufacturing practices, which additionally generate toxic by-products.

His group will work with industrial partner Green Bioactives who will provide additional funds and support for the project.

We are excited to have this opportunity to undertake cutting-edge research and development with our industrial partner, Green Bioactives, located at the nearby Roslin Innovation Centre, Edinburgh. We anticipate this work will help the UK high value chemical sector move towards a more sustainable future, driving job creation and associated prosperity.

Gary LoakeProfessor of Molecular Plant Sciences, School of Biological Sciences at the University of Edinburgh

Higher Value Chemicals Programme

The funding has been awarded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) under its Industrial Biotechnology for Improving Production of Higher Value Chemicals programme. 

Across the UK, up to £2m was available for grants to support short collaborative projects of between 12 to 24 months with a value up to £250,000.


The UK Government is investing heavily in research and development at Scottish universities to level up all parts of the country through science and innovation. Academics at the University of Edinburgh are looking for new ways of producing products for the UK’s chemical industry, finding potential solutions for it to become more sustainable and environmentally friendly. This research is vital, reflecting the government’s UK-wide commitment to tackling climate change. We must keep striving to save our environment and I urge others to join us in this year of climate action ahead of COP26 in Glasgow.

Iain StewartUK Government Minister for Scotland

Related Links

Louise Horsfall’s research group

Gary Loake’s research group