INGENZA is one of the notable successes of the Scottish science world and a leading company in the Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre (IBioIC), whose CEO Roger Kilburn describes them as having a “fantastic” client list.

He says the company “looks at a root, takes the bug and tries to make it do what they want by altering the genome”.

Dr Ian Fotheringham, Ingenza’s co-founder and managing director, puts it slightly differently: “We use microbes and engineer them to change their biochemistry and genetics to make industrial products, which can range from pharmaceuticals with companies like GSK, for example, and small start-up companies looking for partners to help them develop better ways to make pharmaceuticals or biological systems.

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“It’s usually microbes like bacteria or yeast, but it can be on occasion the sorts of mammalian cells that are better at making pharmaceuticals.”

Their work includes agricultural technology with Syngenta, a world leader in crop protection, Mitsubishi and Lucite, a global acrylics company and Perspex manufacturer.

“We work with these companies to make all these types of products using biological methods, which means fermentation, natural methods using sustainable feedstocks instead of crude oil,” says Fotheringham.

“They work with us because they see cost advantages and new products and functionality for existing products and they can say it’s sustainable and it’s cleaner.”

Ingenza was established in 2003 and now has a team of around 40 staff, mostly chemists and biologists. The company pre-dated Scotland’s innovation centres (ICs) and was part of the founding team for the IBioIC.

“When the ICs where being considered and proposals being put forward we were asked by Strathclyde University and various parties thinking of forming an IBioIC to advise, and firstly did we think it was a good idea, which we did,” says Fotheringham. “It provides a sort of networking hub and provides lots of different advantages. We were in there from the beginning and part of the team that went to the Scottish Funding Council and supported them in their bid to have it funded. It serves a purpose of bringing together small companies with larger companies and academic groups who each have a contribution to make to solving a problem, but don’t necessarily find each other.”

Fotheringham says IBioIC catalyses the process of networking and building up enabling capabilities, and simplifies the process of working with different universities. He’s also a fan of their equipment centres: “They’ve built up equipment centres where they have analytical or bioprocess equipment which we couldn’t afford, so we get access to those centres at a reasonable rate that allows us to test and validate processes as well. All the things that de-risk investment in industrial biotechnology (IB).

“Big companies are interested, but they see it as a risk because they can’t figure out how long it will take, how much it will cost and what the chance of success will be, so the more you can help and de-risk that the better.”