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The University of Southampton

Funding boost for biofilms research and innovation

Published: 22 November 2022
Photo of biofilm formation
Image of bacillus subtilis biofilm formation Credit:Maria Paula Huertas Caycedo,University of Dundee

The University of Southampton is set to benefit from further funding for world-class biofilms research and innovation.

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and Innovate UK are investing £7.5m to support the National Biofilms Innovation Centre (NBIC). Announced during Biofilm Week , the funding boost is for the second phase of a global research programme.

As one of NBIC’s four lead research institutions, Southampton hosts the largest group of biofilm academics in the UK and is unique for its interdisciplinary approach. It brings together expertise across biological sciences, medicine, chemistry, computational modelling, engineering and ocean science, and creates impact from medicine and industry to the environment.

NBIC is a UK Knowledge and Innovation Centre which supports the continued expansion of world-class interdisciplinary research and industry partnerships to deliver breakthrough science and technologies to control and exploit biofilms.

Biofilms are all around us in both harmful and helpful ways. From slime on rocks in streams to dental plaque on our teeth, they are central to important global challenges, from antimicrobial resistance and food safety to water security.

They also provide a significant contribution to both the UK and global economy. In May 2022, a study carried out by NBIC estimated that the value of the markets in which biofilms are involved is worth £45 billion in the UK and $4 trillion globally.

In addition to the funding provided by BBSRC and Innovate UK, NBIC has also secured a further £9.5m from its four lead universities (Southampton, Edinburgh, Liverpool and Nottingham) as well as £6.4m industrial support, taking its Phase 2 funding to a total of £23.4m.

The latest funding which comes at the same time as NBIC announces its new CEO, Professor Jo Slater-Jefferies, will support NBIC’s vision to deliver a global innovation hub to prevent, detect, manage and engineer biofilms. It will enable NBIC to continue to drive step-changes in standards and regulation and deliver a diverse training and talent programme.

Photo of Jeremy Webb
Professor Jeremy Webb

NBIC University of Southampton Co-Director, Professor Jeremy Webb said:

“Biofilms are central to some of the most urgent global challenges across diverse fields of application, from medicine to industry, energy, and the environment.

“I am delighted that the UK’s world-class expertise in biofilm research and innovation has been recognised through the Phase 2 award. In Phase 1, NBIC became established as a global centre and now connects academic research and business activity across the UK and the world.

“At Southampton we are home to some of the most advanced research and commercial opportunities in this area that bring together and integrate many disciplines across the University. This new award will enable us deliver new breakthrough science and to nucleate new industries and technologies to control and harness biofilms.”

Dr Lee Beniston FRSB, Associate Director for Industry Partnerships and Collaboration at BBSRC, said:

“I am delighted to announce a further £7.5 million joint investment from BBSRC and Innovate UK in support of NBIC Phase 2, which builds upon our £12.5 million investment from Phase 1. On behalf of BBSRC, I congratulate Professor Slater-Jefferies on her appointment as the new CEO of NBIC.

“This is a vital strategic partnership investment for BBSRC and Innovate UK that has delivered outstanding impacts over the past five years. I am therefore pleased that BBSRC and Innovate UK will continue to take a joint approach to co-investing in, and providing strategic support for, NBIC over the next five years.”

Richard Hebdon, Director for Health and Life Sciences at Innovate UK, said:

“NBIC has established itself as a key part of the UK’s life sciences ecosystem and supports innovation through to commercialisation. It enables businesses to access partners, facilities and funding while providing a single point of contact for advice and support. As well as making the UK more attractive to inward investment by driving the development and adoption of international standards, it also promotes UK research and innovation on the international stage.

“NBIC has demonstrated that it can effectively drive the translation of research into industry and create a pipeline of cross-disciplinary, industry-ready skills and talent. Innovate UK congratulates Professor Slater-Jefferies on her appointment to the role of CEO at this exciting time for NBIC, as Innovate UK and BBSRC commit to funding the national centre for the next five years.”

BBSRC and Innovate UK’s latest investment means the University alongside its NBIC partners can continue to address the detrimental effects of biofilms while exploiting the significant benefits they bring.

Find out more about NBIC’s achievements to date and future plans for the Phase 2 roll out in their 2022 Annual Report .

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