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The growing bio economy in Yorkshire

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Meg Munn MP was recently briefed about the growth in Yorkshire of the businesses built on converting plants, microbes and biowastes into profitable green products. Representatives of Drax and Eggborough Power stations and Joe Ross, Director of Biorenewables Development Centre at the University of York, outlined the various areas that are already working in the bio-economy.

Both Drax and Eggborough power plants are developing the use of sustainable biomass alongside their use of coal. In January Meg visited Drax to see for herself how the phased commissioning process for the changeover was going. Along with Eggborough, Drax sources from sustainably managed forests or agriculture, with significant amounts from waste products from other processes such as the paper industry and furniture making. Both plants contribute a large amount of electricity for the UK’s needs.

Joe Ross, from the Biorenewables Development Centre, said they use universities and their knowledge base to make a positive impact on business. He talked of a bio economy that is broader than just biomass - essentially moving from oil based products to bio based products. They receive significant funding from the Gates Foundation to develop a plant that is a cure for malaria, and are undertaking work to move from oil based to plant based substances for personal care products such as shampoo and pharmaceuticals.

A current estimate is that the bio economy employs around 100,000 people and generates around 8 billion in economic activity. The aim is to increase this by 50% over 10 years. Other countries have found a real benefit to having clusters of companies working on bio products, such as the Ghent bio valley. This approach is now being piloted with Bio Vale (based on Vale of York). BioVale is an innovation cluster that will support development of the region’s bio-based economy.

Meg said:

“This was a fascinating discussion with clear opportunities for Yorkshire to take a lead in developing a strong sustainable bio economy that will benefit the region. There is a need to develop proper training for employees and to ensure that there is a robust local supply chain for these developing industries.”

For more information on BioVale visit: http://www.biovale.org/index.php


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