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£12m EU backed bio-refining research and innovation project gets the ‘green’ light

A new £12 million investment in Wales’ ‘green’ economy has been announced by Welsh Government Finance and Government Business Minister, Jane Hutt  recently.

Backed by £8 million of EU funds, the BEACON+ project will see scientists from Aberystwyth, Bangor and Swansea Universities working with industry to develop renewable materials, fuels and chemicals.

The funding will enable specialists in bio-refining to develop research and product innovation with 100 small and medium sized businesses in North, West Wales and the South Wales valleys.

Bio-refining is the scientific process of transforming plants into valuable chemicals and commercial products such as cosmetics, fuels, pharmaceuticals, textiles and health products.

The project aims to create over 100 new products or processes in partnership with businesses over the next four years.

The new investment allows the participating Universities to build on the success of the first BEACON project, which created closer links between Welsh academia and industry in the area of low-carbon technology, and won the EU’s prestigious RegioStars award for its contribution to sustainable growth.

"Bangor University role in this project is to helping companies develop new products", explained Rob Elias, Beacon Lead at Bangor University’s BioComposites Centre.

"Using our pilot scale facilities we can show case new technologies and help companies develop prototype products. This capability really helps to speed up the exploitation and commercialisation of new ideas in the bioeconomy.”

Finance Minister said: “This £8 million EU investment in the BEACON+ project is excellent news which will allow businesses in Wales to benefit from advanced scientific research to develop new products, create jobs and grow Wales’ low-carbon economy.”

Over £420 million of EU funds have been invested in Wales since the new programmes were agreed by the European Commission in November last year.

EU funds are being invested to boost Welsh business, raise skills and create job opportunities, exploit Wales’ potential in marine renewable energy, and take forward research and innovation projects.

Finance Minister, Jane Hutt, added: “I’m very pleased that we’ve hit the ground running with the delivery of the new EU funding programmes, and it’s clear that people, businesses and communities are already feeling the benefits of substantial EU funds invested in Wales this year.”

Director of BEACON at Aberystwyth University, Professor Iain Donnison, said: “BEACON is driven by the challenging targets for the adoption of green technologies and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions that have been set by national governments and the European Union.

“Low carbon technologies including bio-refining and industrial biotechnology are seen as important growth sectors and will need sustainable supply chains that will generate economic activity and jobs, and it is these that provide the focus for the work being done in and for Wales at BEACON.”

Professor Julie Williams, Chief Scientific Adviser for Wales, said: “EU programmes are playing an important role in supporting research and innovation, and helping to create scientific breakthroughs here in Wales.

“This is an excellent project that will build on the world-class research already taking place at Welsh universities, and create long-term benefits, both economically and environmentally.”


Publication date: 14 December 2015