University of Portsmouth helps launch £26m National Biofilms Innovation Centre

At the cutting edge of biofilm research: Dr Maria Salta

At the cutting edge of biofilm research: Dr Maria Salta

The University of Portsmouth is a key player in a new National Biofilms Innovation Centre (NBIC) launched today to harness the UK’s world-class expertise in the research of biofilms.

The Centre is a key part of the government’s industrial strategy.

Supported by £26m over the next five years, including £12.5m funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Centre (BBSRC) and Innovate UK, with additional support from universities and industry, NBIC will bring the best of UK biofilm research together with UK companies from across the industrial sectors to accelerate the adoption of new technologies into products and services as part of a global industry worth £3,747bn.

The University of Portsmouth has an established reputation for excellence in multi-disciplinary biofilm research and innovation to address challenges in healthcare, marine, offshore gas and oil, water and wastewater applications.

Industries working with the University of Portsmouth as an NBIC partner will have access to funding and support for biofilm research and innovation, and to a network of institutions, academics and events focussed on value creation from world leading biofilms research, working at industry tempo.

Dr Maria Salta is leading the University of Portsmouth’s biofilms research.

She said: “We are very excited by this opportunity to work with NBIC partners, both to drive significant advances in biofilm research and to support the delivery of new products and processes across a range of priority sectors.

“Working with academic and industry partners, our researchers have designed micro and macro systems for in-situ bacterial and biofilm observations, developed alternatives for poisonous antifouling coatings, developed polymers to prevent the adhesion of oral bacteria, which have been incorporated into next-generation oral healthcare products, and developed novel biofilms for corrosion treatment.

“This multi-disciplinary research is supported by a range of excellent field and laboratory facilities, state-of-the-art, multi-scale advanced microscopy, bio-imaging and analytical equipment and advanced modelling capabilities, all of which will be made available to partners across the NBIC.”

Biofilms are central to some of the most urgent global challenges across diverse fields of application from medicine to industry to the environment and exert considerable economic and social impact:

  • They are a leading cause of antimicrobial resistance, forecast to cost £75tn in world GDP and 10 million deaths by 2050;
  • They are the major cause of chronic infections, costing the NHS £2bn per annum;
  • Contamination, energy losses and damage by biofilms impact on the £70bn UK foods industry, the £2.1tn consumer products sector, and £87bn global coatings industry.
  • Biofilm management is essential to deliver clean and globally sustainable drinking water and food security.

Principal investigator and co-director for NBIC Jeremy Webb said: “This new National Biofilms Innovation Centre is poised to create a fusion of world-class interdisciplinary research and industry partnerships to deliver breakthrough science and technologies to control and exploit biofilms.

“The UK is home to some of the most advanced research and commercial opportunities for the exploitation of biofilms so combining our talents gives us the best opportunity to establish a national, and international, agenda to tackle some of the world’s biggest challenges and work seamlessly across academic and industry to stimulate growth in this vital area.”

The confocal microscope in the University's Institute of Biological and Biomedical Sciences

The confocal microscope in the University’s Institute of Biological and Biomedical Sciences

The School of Biological Sciences provides facilities for marine and terrestrial exposure trials, including a research vessel for inshore work and a suite of general, molecular, histology and sediment laboratories based in Langstone Harbour at the Institute of Marine Sciences. The project is also supported by facilities at the Institute of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, including a new state of the art confocal laser scanning microscope that allows high resolution 3D reconstruction of biofilms as wells as visualising and quantifying several components, including extra-cellular polymeric substances and cells, simultaneously.

In addition, the University’s Centre for Environmental Technology in Petersfield, Hampshire, offers experimental facilities and expertise in microbiology and environmental chemistry to make wastewater safer.

The University’s £11m Future Technology Centre opening in 2018 will offer access to knowledge and equipment and will act as a hub for facilitating innovation in key sectors, such as marine, maritime and healthcare, as part of its partnership in the NBIC.

NBIC is a multi-site Innovation and Knowledge Centre led by the University of Southampton and comprising 15 universities, including the Universities of Portsmouth, Edinburgh, Liverpool and Nottingham, three research centres – Diamond Synchrotron, the Hartree Centre and the Quadram Institute – and three major global academic partners –  The  Nanyang Technologial University (Singapore), the Montana State University (US) and the University of Copenhagen (Denmark). NBIC will also collaborate with a network of over 50 companies from different sectors ranging from SMEs to large companies to exploit the UK’s global leadership in biofilms. NBIC’s inclusive model means that other universities and companies conducting biofilm research can participate and benefit from partnership with the NBIC consortium.

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