Synthetic biology has the potential to increase prosperity and address some of the major challenges facing our planet.

A strategic roadmap for synthetic biology was published in July 2012 with the key purpose of developing ‘a roadmap that defines the likely timeframe and actions required to establish a world leading Synthetic Biology industry within the UK.’

The roadmap, produced by an independent panel of experts for the government’s Department for Business Innovation and Skills, sets out a shared vision for realising the potential of synthetic biology in the UK.

Note: A refresh of the 2012 Roadmap, the UK Synthetic Biology Strategic Plan 2016 — Biodesign for the Bioeconomy, was published on 24th February 2016.

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Five core themes for the roadmap emerged from this work. They were:

  • Foundational science and engineering: the need for sufficient capabilities for the UK to maintain a leading edge
  • Continuing responsible research and innovation: including the need for awareness, training and adherence to regulatory frameworks
  • Developing technology for commercial use
  • Applications and markets: identifying growth markets and developing applications
  • International cooperation

To achieve this, the roadmap outlines five key recommendations:

  • Invest in a network of multidisciplinary centres to establish an outstanding UK synthetic biology resource.
  • Build a skilled, energised and well-funded UK-wide synthetic biology community [for example, via the Synthetic Biology Special Interest Group].
  • Invest to accelerate technology responsibly to market.
  • Assume a leading international role.
  • Establish a leadership council

Some of the recommendations made by the Roadmap are already in place, including the Synthetic Biology Special Interest Group (SynBio SIG); funding opportunities, for instance the SPARK Awards for Synthetic Biology and the Technology Strategy Board’s (now known as Innovate UK) £6.5M Feasibility Studies Competition which launched in October 2012; and increased consideration of responsible innovation factors in the funding process. The co-founders are working to ensure that the projects funded perform their activities within the principles of responsible innovation.

Moreover, ~ £20 million of funding has already been made available to support implementation of the Roadmap through a number of initiatives by the BBSRC, EPSRC and Innovate UK.

You can download the Strategic Roadmap for Synthetic Biology in the UK (2012) here.