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BrisSynBio is a multi-disciplinary research centre that focuses on the biomolecular design and engineering aspects of synthetic biology, and has been established as one of six Synthetic Biology Research Centres in the UK. Find out more about the centre and its new Innovation Programme in today’s guest blog from Andy Boyce, BrisSynBio Innovation Manager.

Bristol is one of those cities that people move to and never leave. The people are friendly; the city is dotted with beautiful old buildings, giant painted Gromit statues and original Banksy art; and you can get high-quality organic falafel on almost any street corner. There’s a great start-up scene for digital tech and creative industries. However, despite some truly world-class bioscience research, there is a noticeable lack of biotech companies. I think that this may be about to change and that synthetic biology will be the key to unlocking Bristol’s biotech potential.

Like many other institutions, the University of Bristol has been riding the wave of excitement for synthetic biology. Off the back of some fantastic basic science, it was awarded one of the UK Synthetic Biology Research Centre grants from BBSRC and EPSRC. This initial £16M five-year programme established BrisSynBio, a multidisciplinary institute that acts as the focal point for over £70M of synthetic biology related research at the University.

At just over halfway through the project, BrisSynBio is in an exciting and productive phase. Researchers are generating high impact synthetic biology papers, and new engineering approaches have enabled a rapid translation from basic science to close-to-market products and services. It was this wealth of commercially relevant projects that prompted BrisSynBio to get in some dedicated resource (that’s me!) to accelerate these ideas to market and encourage the next wave of spin-outs, licencing deals and industrial partnerships. I’ve had superb support from BrisSynBio management and researchers, and after a few frenetic months we’re excited to announce our new BrisSynBio Innovation Programme.

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The deliberately ambitious vision for the programme is: (1) to develop a self-sustaining funding stream from BrisSynBio innovation activities; (2) to establish BrisSynBio as a high-profile centre for synthetic biology innovation with a vibrant industrial network; and (3) to foster a long-term culture of innovation at all levels of BrisSynBio students and staff. While these are long-term aspirations, we are close to reaching our first major milestones. Our first spinout company will be incorporated in Q1 2017, we will hold the first in a series of BrisSynBio Connect industry engagement events in April, and we have opened applications for a joint business acumen course with SynbiCITE.

We’ve been helped in our efforts by a University and citywide resurgence in excitement for innovation and biotechnology. BioDesign has been announced as one of seven new Specialist Research Institutes, which represent the areas where the University of Bristol sees potential for significant growth and international leadership. In addition, new Bristol biotech companies can benefit from the world’s top rated university incubator (SETSquared) and dedicated lab space in two new purpose built facilities (Unit DX and Future Space).

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There will be lots more coming in 2017 and we would be delighted to hear from you if you are interested in collaborating or want to know more about what we are up to.

Andy Boyce, BrisSynBio Innovation Manager: andy.boyce@bristol.ac.uk