Biofilm capability boosted by new funding

Investment received to support the UK’s academic and industrial strengths in biofilm research and innovation.

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and Innovate UK will invest £7.5m to support the National Biofilms Innovation Centre (NBIC), expanding on its world-class research and innovation.

The University of Edinburgh is one of NBIC’s four lead research institutions, conducting important research into microbial biofilms across several schools, institutes and research centres, including input from a team at the School of Physics and Astronomy. This research spans a wide range of topics and areas such as bioengineering, biofilm formation, inflammation research, infection control, hygiene and wastewater treatment. The study of biofilms spans disciplines, from understanding how single cells become complex multicellular systems, to collaborative research on how to eradicate biofilms or prevent bacterial infections. 

National collaboration

Launched in 2017 by its four lead universities: Edinburgh, Liverpool, Nottingham and Southampton, this UK Innovation and Knowledge Centre has expanded partnerships with 59 research institutions and more than 150 companies across the UK.

NBIC has secured a further £9.5m from the lead universities as well as £6.4m industrial support, taking its Phase 2 funding to a total of £23.4m.

Tackling global challenges

The latest funding will support NBIC’s vision to deliver a global innovation hub by building on its collective strengths to prevent, detect, manage and engineer biofilms. It will enable NBIC to drive the adoption of innovative solutions across industry sectors to address major global challenges including climate change, water safety and improved healthcare. It will also drive step-changes in standards and regulation for novel biofilm solutions that support international trade. Phase 2 will also see NBIC deliver a diverse training programme to equip the biofilm innovation ecosystem with the skills they need both now and, in the future, while also nurturing the talent of tomorrow.

What are biofilms?

Biofilms are central to our most important global challenges, from antimicrobial resistance and food safety to water security. They also provide a significant contribution to both the UK and global economy. In May 2022, a study carried out by NBIC estimated that the value of the markets in which biofilms are involved is worth £45 billion in the UK and $4 trillion globally.

NBIC University of Edinburgh Co-Director, Professor Cait MacPhee, who is based in the School of Physics and Astronomy said:

I am delighted that the pioneering work of NBIC will continue with Edinburgh as one of the core partners. Microbial biofilms play a key role in the biosphere, and are important to environmental efforts such as remediation and the safe maintenance of large-scale infrastructure. They also have an impact, both positive and negative, on a variety of different industries across multiple sectors, including healthcare. We will continue with our work to link the best academic research across the UK to meet urgent industrial needs, for the benefit of end-users and the general public. Anyone with an interest in biofilms is encouraged to get in touch.