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University of Southampton to lead National Biofilms Innovation Centre

Published: 27 November 2017
Microbiology research lab
The University of Southampton is the lead research organisation for the new NBIC.

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) led by the University of Southampton.

Supported by a commitment of £26 million over the next 5 years, including £12.5M funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and Innovate UK, with additional support from universities and industry, the 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 as part of a global industry worth $5 trillion. 

Microbial biofilm research is a feature of many scientific disciplines across the University of Southampton, lead research organisation of the centre. Southampton boasts the largest grouping of biofilm academics in the UK and is unique in its ability to consider biofilms in an integrated way across a range of research areas. These include biological sciences, medicine, chemistry, computational modelling, engineering and ocean science creating impact across diverse fields of application, from medicine to industry to the environment.

The University is also home to the interdisciplinary Network for Anti-Microbial Resistance and Infection Prevention (NAMRIP) which is focused on combatting the increasing resistance that microbes display to countermeasures like antibiotics – one of the major themes of the NBIC.

“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 University of Southampton Professor of Microbiology 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.”

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.

The NBIC is a multi-site Innovation and Knowledge Centre, based at the University of Southampton, as lead research organisation, together with a core partnership of the Universities of Edinburgh, Liverpool and Nottingham. A further 11 universities2, three research centres – Diamond Synchrotron, the Hartree Centre and the Quadram Institute – and three major global academic partners –  The Nanyang Technological 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.

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