Phyconet’s 5-year plan for algae

[UK] Launched in January 2014 and operating over the course of five years, Phyconet is a UK-based network enabling biologists, engineers and industrial partners to “consolidate their knowledge and expertise to unlock the IB potential of microalgae.” Officially, it is a Biotechnology and BiologicalSciences Research Council Network in Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy (BBSRC NIBB).

The focus of Phyconet is on producing high value products from microalgae (including cyanobacteria,) industrially cultivated in an intensive and controlled manner using photobioreactor and fermentor-based technologies.

The collaborative’s main objectives are to:

  1. Develop an interdisciplinary algal research community in the UK
  2. Network with international algal groups
  3. Facilitate collaborative research between academia and industry
  4. Provide funding for research projects within the network
  5. Promote other funding opportunities
  6. Organize conferences and networking and training events
  7. Provide input to UK and EU policy
  8. Promote the profile of algal research in the UK

Phyconet is managed by an Executive Group and steered by a Management Board. The Executive Group comprises Phyconet Director Saul Purton (University College London), Co-Director Michele Stanley (Scottish Association for Marine Science) and Network Manager Janet Waterhouse (University College London).

“The UK is home to a number of exciting SMEs and leading academic groups but expertise is very fragmented at present and the opportunities to use algae in IB are not so well known,” said Dr. Saul Purton from the Institute of Structural and Molecular Biology at University College London. “Phyconet is bringing together those working with microalgae and microalgal products to explore how algae can be exploited as platforms in IB, which complement established bacterial and yeast platforms.

“We’re working closely with synthetic biologists and genetic engineers to take the more advanced species to the next level. Another area of focus is mining the genetic diversity of other algae to discover novel enzymes and metabolic pathways. We’re also liaising with engineers to develop industry standards for photobioreactors. Another area of interest is examining the challenges, barriers and opportunities for algal IB from commercial and regulatory viewpoints.

“Phyconet is holding several sandpit events to identify joint academic-business projects suitable for proof-of-concept funding through the network. We’re keen to welcome new members from a variety of disciplines.”


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