A circular bioeconomy encourages the recovery, reuse, and sustainable management of biological resources. The adoption of such an approach can help tackle challenges like reducing greenhouse gas emissions, waste, and pollution with consequent impacts on climate change and biodiversity loss.
Intelligent use of industrial biotechnology, biorefining, and engineering biology in combination with green physico-chemical approaches has the power to address many of the issues needed to develop a circular and environmentally sustainable economy.
We invite applications that apply biotechnological solutions to offer circularity and environmental impact reduction in one of two key areas:
- technology-relevant metal recovery
- textile manufacturing and recycling.
For both areas, the opportunity aims to:
- effectively reuse resources, thus reducing the need for new fossil-based inputs and reducing waste
- reduce the environmental footprint of processes through switching to biotechnology-based alternatives
- build in the recovery of materials at end of life, thereby facilitating remediation and minimising environmental impacts
- converge and grow a community of UK researchers and businesses providing biotechnological solutions to the circular bioeconomy
- improve understanding of the capabilities and limitations for translation and scale-up of the biotechnology-based approaches proposed.
For the chosen area, you should address one or more of the challenges detailed below. These descriptions are not exhaustive and other ideas that fit these challenges are encouraged.
Please contact us well in advance of the deadline if you are unsure whether your application fits within the scope of the opportunity.
Applications need to demonstrate a move away from the current linear system towards a circular system where materials and resources are re-used.
Applications should seek to provide evidence of impact on greenhouse gas emissions and environmental impact reduction that biotech-approaches can have compared to conventional approaches, when appropriately scaled.
We encourage applications that feature interactions with other disciplines, but the main aim of any project must be to develop and use biotechnological processes.
The work to be undertaken must be primarily within BBSRC’s remit. We encourage multidisciplinary applications, but we strongly advise you to contact us before submission if significant aspects of the proposal are outside of our remit.
If you are planning to submit multiple applications to this opportunity, please contact us to discuss.
This opportunity follows the standard guidelines for research grant applications for BBSRC as described in the BBSRC research grants guide.
Technology-relevant metal recovery
We are interested in applications that utilise biotechnology to:
- develop or improve technology-relevant metal recovery from e-waste, mining, battery, and other industrial wastes
- enable the development of sustainable routes to produce high value products from recovered metals of significant industrial potential using industrial biotechnology, biorefining, and engineering biology. For example, biometallic catalysts for industrial application
- explore the feasibility of economic scales of operation and understand biotechnological-based metal recycling’s role in the circular economy, including life-cycle assessment consideration.
The anticipated outcomes of this programme will be:
- an improved understanding of how biotechnological methods can be used for extracting and separating key metals from complex mixes at a range of scales. For example, extraction from biomass and carbon supports, in presence of other metals and organic residues such as circuit boards and mixtures found in solid-state batteries
- new biotechnological methods for solubilisation and recovery of metals including biofabrication of high value products, for example recovery in alternative useful forms beyond the native metal (in the form of nanoparticles, quantum dots (QDs), battery materials, catalysts achieved through compartments, cages and controlled biomineralisation).
This opportunity will further demonstrate the ability of biotechnological methods to assist with some of the issues faced in relation to e-waste and recovery of technology-relevant metals.
Textile manufacturing and recycling
We are interested in applications that use biotechnological approaches to develop the following.
Novel, sustainable, and renewable textile polymers and fibres
Approaches should make use of polymers from:
- end-of-life textiles
- crop residues and by products
- crop fibres (such as hemp, flax, algae)
- food industry residues
- coarse wool
- municipal solid waste as a source of natural fibre
- waste feedstocks as the basis for the manufacture of synthetic fibres through microbial fermentation.
Breeding of natural fibres (such as cotton and hemp) to improve their sustainability would be out of scope. However, projects that propose circular processing of such crop fibres will be considered.
Applications which use biotechnology in the design process to create desired properties, for example resilience, drape, and breathability to make fabrics for specific application such as sportswear, are of particular interest. This could be, for instance, during the fibre spinning process or deposition of polymers.
The use of biotechnological processes to extend the life of textiles or change properties during use are also in scope.
Sustainable approaches to textile dyeing and finishing
Approaches should address the generation of novel, benign, and low impact bio-derived dyes or bio-derived functional replacements for petroleum-based chemicals used in textile finishing to give desired performance attributes. This includes water repellency, sweat wicking or softness, for example, from bacteria, algae, plants, wastes or residues.
We welcome applications to develop novel methods for incorporating bio-derived dyes and finishings into textiles that eliminate or reduce wastewater and waste chemicals in the process.
Applications which explore the recovery of dyes from end-of-life textiles (allowing circularity in the supply chain) are also encouraged.
Routes to recycle end of life textiles
Approaches should explore the means to overcome major challenges in polymer recovery and reuse, dye removal, and related issues with garment components and embellishments (for example zips, buttons, sequins, beads) during recycling.
Approaches should be predominately biotechnologically focused but could also include both chemical and mechanical approaches to facilitate biological processes. Recovered fibres should be suitable for creating new textiles or for new high-value applications.
Applications in the following areas will not be accepted:
- applications that do not fit the scope of the opportunity
- projects with an exclusive focus on purchase of equipment
- resubmissions of previously unsuccessful applications
- specific to the textiles area. This funding opportunity focuses on circular approaches. The breeding of natural fibres (such as cotton and hemp) to improve their sustainability would be out of scope.
The indicative budget for this combined opportunity is up to £5 million, subject to the quality of applications received.
The full economic cost of your project can be up to £375,000. BBSRC will fund 80% of the full economic cost.
All projects must have a start date of no later than 1 February 2023 and a maximum duration of 24 months.