SCOTLAND’S industrial biotechnology community is exceeding growth expectations and is on track to achieve annual turnover of £1.2 billion by 2025, according to a refreshed strategy launched at the Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre’s (IBioIC) annual conference.

The updated National Plan for Industrial Biotechnology outlines new ambitions for Scotland’s bioeconomy, including reaching a target of 220 companies operating in the sector and more than 4000 employees by 2025, reflecting the increasingly important role of industrial biotechnology in the transition to net zero.

Analysis from IBioIC showed businesses active in industrial biotechnology accounted for some £790 million in turnover during 2020, increasing from £189m in 2012 – prior to the launch of the first iteration of the strategy and the formation of the innovation centre.

Initial targets of the National Plan were set at £900m turnover and 2000 employees by 2025.

Ivan McKee, Minister for Business, Trade, Tourism and Enterprise, presented the updated vision for the sector to attendees at IBioIC’s conference in Glasgow, where 300 experts from industry and academia discussed how sustainable development of the bioeconomy can secure Scotland’s path to net zero.

McKee said: “Our National Strategy for Economic Transformation, launched earlier this year, sets out our plans for the next decade and highlights industrial biotechnology as a current and future key industry for Scotland that is fostering innovative and sustainable ways of using biological processes.

“This includes identifying new market opportunities where Scotland has potential to develop industries like industrial biotechnology by building on our technological strengths.”

Industrial biotechnology supports the creation of more sustainable materials, consumer goods and pharmaceuticals by using bio-based alternatives to petrochemicals, maximising the re-use of by-products and minimising waste in the process.

IBioIC connects industry with academic expertise to support companies to bring new bio-based processes and products to the global market.

Almost £30m of additional industry investment has been generated as a direct result of innovation activities to date, contributing more than 3000 high-value green jobs.

Mark Bustard, chief executive of IBioIC, said: “Reaching net zero is going to be a big challenge for Scotland, but it also presents opportunities to embrace biotechnology as a means of getting there.

“We are making great progress with the bioeconomy, which has grown considerably over the past decade – so much so that we now have new ambitious but achievable targets to work towards.

“By supporting businesses to embrace more sustainable products, materials and processes through industrial biotechnology, we can secure local supply chains, create green jobs, and fuel economic growth.

“However, with a climate emergency upon us, we need to do more and do it quickly: the new National Plan sets out some of the required steps to make that a reality.

“Scotland has a world-class innovation ecosystem and could become the go-to destination for scaling up bioeconomy businesses and manufacturing bio-based products and materials.”