WRc helps launch National Biofilms Innovation Centre

Posted: Friday 22nd December 2017

The UK's world-class expertise in the research of biofilms has been recognised through the launch of a new National Biofilms Innovation Centre (NBIC).

Supported by a commitment of £26 million over the next 5 years, including £12.5M funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Centre (BBSRC) and Innovate UK, with additional support from universities and industry, NBIC will bring the best of UK biofilm research together with UK companies from across the industrial sectors to accelerate the adoption of new technologies into live products and services.

NBIC is a multi-site Innovation and Knowledge Centre, led by the University of Southampton together with a core partnership of the Universities of Edinburgh, Liverpool and Nottingham. A further 11 universities, three research centres - Diamond Synchotron, the Hartree Centre and the Quadram Institute - and three major global academic partners - The Nanyang Technologial University (Singapore), the Montana State University (USA) and the University of Copenhagen (Denmark). NBIC will also collaborate with a network of over 50 companies from different sectors ranging from SMEs to large companies to exploit the UK's global leadership in biofilms. NBIC's inclusive model means that other universities and companies conducting biofilm research can participate and benefit from partnership with the NBIC consortium.

"This new National Biofilms Innovation Centre is poised to create a fusion of world-class interdisciplinary research and industry partnerships to deliver breakthrough science and technologies to control and exploit biofilms," said Jeremy Webb, Principal Investigator and Co-Director for NBIC. "The UK is home to some of the most advanced research and commercial opportunities for the exploitation of biofilms so combining our talents gives us the best opportunity to establish a national, and international, agenda to tackle some of the world's biggest challenges and work seamlessly across academic and industry to stimulate growth in this vital area."

One of WRc's niches as an organisation is to act as the interface between academia and industry to ensure the outcome of research can be implemented into operational practice by water companies.

Robert Pitchers, Head of Microbiology at WRc comments: "WRc is excited to be involved with the National Biofilms Innovation Centre. Over the years, WRc has worked closely with a number of water companies to assess the impact of biofilms on the microbiological quality of drinking water. As an organisation sitting between academia and industry, our aim will be to deliver the outcome of this research for the operational benefit of the water industry."

Microbial biofilm research is now a feature of many scientific disciplines including biological sciences, medicine, chemistry, physics, computational modelling, engineering and ocean science. Biofilms are central to some of the most urgent global challenges across diverse fields of application, from medicine to industry to the environment and exert considerable economic and social impact:

They are a leading cause of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), forecast to cost $100T in world GDP and 10M deaths by 2050;

They are the major cause of chronic infections, costing the NHS £2bn per annum;

Contamination, energy losses and damage by biofilms impact on the £70B UK foods industry, the $2.8T consumer products sector, and $117B global coatings industry.

Biofilm management is essential to deliver clean and globally sustainable drinking water and food security.

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May 2021

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