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BEACON: Meeting the demands of an ever increasing population

West Wales and the Valleys, United Kingdom

Experts predict that the world's population will reach 9 billion by 2050 – an increase of 2 billion on current figures. This surge in population coupled with the growing threat of climate change will see demand for the planet's resources increase dramatically. BEACON is an initiative that is building integrated ‘green supply chains’ to develop new routes to functional, cheap products using biomass rather than oil.

The BEACON project is developing products and green supply chains using biomass. The BEACON project is developing products and green supply chains using biomass.

BEACON has a network of scientific expertise based at the Universities of Aberystwyth, Bangor, and Swansea in Wales, UK. Through this network, the project is creating new jobs in rural Wales, stimulating inward investment and promoting Welsh scientific excellence at a global level.

Biorefining: crucial for economic growth

Specifically, the project team's focus is on biorefining; a process that uses non-food crop feedstocks, in much the same way that oil refineries use crude oil, to produce a broad spectrum of commodity products. Biorefining is seen as crucial for the EU's burgeoning bio-economy.

BEACON has already assisted several companies in a variety of sectors to produce innovative products. For example, its collaboration with Aber Instruments in Aberystwyth has resulted in the Welsh biomass measurement company receiving its first order for biomass probes.

Other companies across Wales have benefited through the project's business support seminars that demonstrate how BEACON can help commercialise their research and exploit intellectual property.

Benefiting companies across the UK

Another key feature of the BEACON initiative is its supply chains. There are currently over 70 companies actively involved in various supply chains under BEACON, ranging from animal production and grain milling to food production. A network is thus being formed across the supply chain that is promoting the transfer of knowledge between all involved.

One such company is The Mushroom Garden, which cultivates a variety of mushrooms such as shiitake, oyster, and chestnut. The BEACON team extracted a natural product from the company’s shiitake mushroom to explore the potential to create new co-products such as mushroom ketchup and stock cubes. Once commercialised, these new products will have a positive impact on the business, resulting in more sales, increased profit, and new green jobs.

BEACON has developed biorefinery options based on a number of feedstocks that grow well on marginal land. It has also actively promoted a move to materials using plants and plant residues that will not compete with food crops.

The members of the BEACON platform not only develop green solutions that reduce reliance on fossil-based resources such as oil and coal. They are also encouraged to optimise their operations by increasing productivity and reducing their energy consumption, and use of other resources.

Positive partnerships

BEACON's regional partnerships have accelerated throughout 2012 and 2013. The project team has, for example, been active within Europe as part of the Climate-KIC consortium – described as a ‘European network of innovators’ - set up by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology. In addition, international collaborations include those with the University of Georgia in the United States and the University of Windsor in Canada.

In the longer term, BEACON wants to ensure that the Welsh economy has the intellectual property, infrastructure, and expertise to take the lead in producing bio-based fuels and biomass sources of bulk chemicals. It is also looking to attract significant long-term inward investment and develop skilled researchers in green biotechnology by offering PhD programmes.

‘The BEACON project is providing a translational pipeline for research into low carbon bio-based technologies to benefit society. It is also rejuvenating the economy by identifying sustainable alternatives for fossil fuels as well as creating new green jobs.’

  • Professor Iain Donnison, BEACON Director and Project Coordinator.

Technical information

Program

ERDF for the 2007-2013 programming period

Total Investment

EUR 22 986 893

EU Investment

EUR 11 916 817

Contact

Project management:
Institute of Biological, Environmental & Rural Sciences (IBERS)
Aberystwyth, Ceredigion
UK-SY23 3EB, Gogerddan
United Kingdom
Steven , Fish
Tel.: +44 (0)1970 823070
E-Mail: stf@aber.ac.uk

 

Managing Authority:
Welsh European Funding Office (WEFO)
Merthyr Tydfil
UK-CF48 1UZ
United Kingdom
Damien, O'Brien
Tel.: +44 300 062 8334
E-Mail: damien.o'brien@wales.gsi.gov.uk

 

www.beaconwales.org

Draft date

31/01/2014

 

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