AM visits Mona

Rhun ap Iorwerth, AM for Ynys Mon, visited the pilot facilities at Mona, Anglesey, on Friday 17 November to hear about recent collaborative projects with industry and how support from the BioComposites Centre and the BEACON initiative were helping companies in Wales with innovation.  The importance of developing bio-based materials and the growth of the bio-economy in Wales were highlighted.


2nd International Bioeconomy Congress

The 2nd International Bioeconomy Congress took place on 12-13 September 2017 at the University of Hohenheim, Stuttgart.

In the session on New Crops for a Sustainable Biomass Supply, Professor John Clifton Brown gave a presentation on miscanthus entitled "The Role of Breeding in Developing New Bio-based Resources".

Building the world’s first miscanthus bale house!


Low carbon manager, Dr Judith Thornton, featured on the BBC Wales news today as she helped build the first ever miscanthus bale house near Machynlleth, Powys. Working with the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT), Judith is exploring the potential to use miscanthus or Asian elephant grass as a building material.

Straw bales have been used to build houses for hundreds of years, and are typically formed by stacking rows of bales on a raised footing within a timber frame, which are then lime-plastered or rendered to prevent water penetration.

Miscanthus bales are now being used in similar fashion at Machynlleth to trial the bioenergy crop as a carbon-negative, green and sustainable building material. Miscanthus has excellent insulation properties and can lock in carbon, significantly reducing the amount of carbon dioxide being emitted into the atmosphere, a contributory factor in global warming. A typical house can emit as much as 50 tonnes of CO2, but miscanthus has the potential to decarbonize the building industry.

Dr Thornton commented that in the future pre-fabricated panels of miscanthus could be produced for use in the construction industry, as well as loft insulation and fibreboards.

Read more here:

and here:

Relocation of the pyrolysis rig


Summer 2017 saw the relocation of the pyrolysis rig from its original site by the seed bank at IBERS, Gogerddan, to a new site to make way for construction of the new Aberystwyth Innovation and Enterprise Campus (AIEC).  The three main sections of the rig were carefully dismantled by TRJ Ltd of Ammanford, before being loaded by crane onto the back of a lorry and put into temporary storage for a short time, pending the construction of the blockwork walls to roof level at the new site. Once the new site was prepared, the individual components were loaded onto the lorry once more, and transported to their new position, where they were carefully lowered into position by crane and reconnected. The relocation exercise was supervised by process engineer, Damon Hammond, who pyrolises a variety of feedstocks in the rig to produce biochar.

AIEC will support innovation in the agri-tech and biosciences sectors, giving companies access to cutting-edge research and state-of-the-art facilities, driving the economy in the food & drink, bio-processing and biotechnology sectors throughout Wales and beyond.

MP for Aberconwy visits BEACON

Guto Bebb, Member of Parliament for Aberconwy, and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Wales Office, visited IBERS today to see the cutting-edge research undertaken by BEACON scientists. Dr Joe Gallagher, Head of Industrial Biotechnology and Director of Knowledge Exchange and Commercialisation at IBERS and BEACON Projects Manager, informed the minister of the ways in which BEACON supports the green economy in Wales, helping companies bring new products to market, and developing and testing new processes which can help grow their businesses faster and more economically. The minister saw science in (somewhat noisy!) action as birch was steam-exploded as part of a project for Natural Resources Wales.

Welsh Government Minister for Skills and Science vists Mona

Julie James AM, Welsh Government Minister for Skills and Science (pictured above with Deputy Director of BEACON, Dr Rob Elias, second right) visited the Mona facility on Anglesey recently to learn more about the innovative work being undertaken into sustainable packaging by BEACON staff at the BioComposites Centre, Bangor University.

Through the STARS project, the BEACON team were instrumental in the development of the grass-based packaging now used by Waitrose, the benefit of which is that the material fibre can be easily composted, providing a green alternative to plastic packaging, thus reducing the amount of waste going to landfill, and the environmental impact on the planet.

Dr Quiyun Liu also had the opportunity to present her project on sustainable packaging, developing innovative biodegradable coffee lids for Costa coffee, which will replace the plastic lids currently in use.

BEACON Conference 2017


The BEACON Conference 2017 was held on 24th & 25th May at Venue Cymru, Llandudno.

Titled "Developing a Sustainable Bioeconomy for Wales: A Future Roadmap", the conference featured a wide range of presentations under the themes of Strategy, Funding and Incubating Businesses, with a conference dinner on the Wednesday evening.

Proceedings were opened on Day 1 with a Welcome Address by Iain Donnison, Director of BEACON, followed by John Hughes, Vice Chancellor of Bangor University. Paul Henderson from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) gave a presentation on the current state of the UK Bioeconomy, and considered some of the barriers and opportunities raised by stakeholders. Roger Kilburn, CEO of IBioIC gave a talk on the Scottish National Plan for Industrial Biotechnology, which is projected to be worth £900 million by 2025, and was followed by Ewa Bloch of Innovate UK, who is the National Contact Point for Horizon 2020 Societal Challenge 5 (Climate action, environment, raw materials and sustainable cities), and who spoke about priorities for 2018-2020, focusing on the move to a greener, resource efficient and climate resilient economy. Joe Ross, Director of the Biorenewables Development Centre (BDC), highlighted Plans for the Bioeconomy of the North of England and the world’s largest sugar beet processing plant. He also focused on BioPilotsUK, the alliance of open access biorefining centres, of which BEACON and BDC are both founder members. BEACON’s own Adam Charlton gave an overview of the valuable work undertaken by all 3 partners at Aberystwyth, Bangor and Swansea Universities to support the bioeconomy in Wales and further afield, with around 150 companies assisted to date, leading to new jobs created, new products brought to market, and new processes and services launched. Rebecca Colley Jones, Director of Ynys Resources Ltd, challenged the audience to think about waste, recycling and the circular economy, with the discussions continuing long into the evening over the conference dinner. Mike Shaw, Group Manager of the Mid Wales Regional Engagement Team at Ceredigion County Council, shared the vision for Mid Wales as a rural powerhouse, while the day’s proceedings were rounded off by Steven Fish, Head of Business Partnerships and Enterprise at Lancaster University, on how ERDF has supported the creation of InfoLab21 and other projects focused on business innovation and engagement. Unfortunately Ian Holmes, the Horizon 2020 National Contact Point: Food Security, Sustainable Agriculture, Blue Growth and the Bioeconomy at Innovate UK, was unable to be present to deliver his report on European Funding Opportunities for Bio-based Industries, but the call is open until September 2017.

Day 2 began with the showcasing of two exciting, new developments in Wales, which will drive innovation and entrepreneurship in key sectors, contributing to growth in the Welsh economy, both of which will offer physical or virtual offices to businesses and links to universities. John Rooney, Business Development Officer for M-SParc, outlined progress on the North Wales build to date, while Rhian Hayward, CEO of Aberystwyth Innovation and Enterprise Campus (AIEC), set the stage for the new campus, which will incorporate the BEACON biorefining capability on its completion. Nia Roberts of Swansea University meanwhile affirmed the importance of protecting intellectual property in innovation. There then followed a series of flash presentations by companies who have benefitted enormously from collaborating with BEACON, bringing new products to market and seeing their businesses and staff numbers grow as a result. These included Ahmed Ali, CEO of International Gums and Oils, whose work with frankincense has led to novel medical applications with patents granted and licensed, and a new cosmetic product due to be launched shortly; Muyiwa Akintoye, Head of Research & Development at Quorn Foods, who discussed the mycoprotein that forms the well-known product; Ray Marriott, Technical Director of Suprex Ltd, a spin-out company from Bangor University specialising in the applications of supercritical CO2; and Jonathan Hughes, Director of Pennotec, on his numerous collaborations with BEACON on chitin. The conference was formally closed with a few remarks from Iain Donnison, before delegates made their way out into the blazing North Wales sunshine.

Vice Chancellor visits BEACON facility


The newly-appointed Vice Chancellor of Aberystwyth University, Professor Elizabeth Treasure, visited the BEACON facility at Gogerddan today. Accompanied by Professor Iain Donnison, Director of BEACON, she was given a brief introduction to the plot scale projects undertaken by BEACON in its work with commercial partners by Business Development Manager, Dr Mike Morris (seen here).

Waste stream valorisation: online training for the biotech industry

Waste crab shells

One of the emerging concepts behind sustainability is ‘waste stream’ valorisation. Waste biomass is produced by any industry making a commodity from biomass. Landfill is one fate for such waste material, but clearly this is not only wasteful but also polluting due to leaching of methane, a greenhouse gas. To reduce our dependency on fossil oils and mitigate climate change, value can be extracted from such organic waste by turning it into products which otherwise would have been synthesized from fossil oil. Valorising organic waste streams thus provides opportunity for profit whilst promoting a green circular economy.

Take the food industry as an example: Food processing industries in Europe, result in large amounts of waste, estimated at 25 million tons per year which number can only increase with time. Waste streams resulting from the food industry include potato peel, apple pomace, tomato leaves and bakery waste amongst others. These organic waste streams are typically rich in lipids, amino acids, carbohydrates and phosphates. Carbohydrates, such as starch and amylose, typically enriched within bakery waste, have been shown to be perfect feedstocks for succinate production, a high value compound that was worth $400 million in 2014.  Succinic acid is a building block for a plethora of other value added metabolites used in many industries such as the pharmaceutical and food industry and can be used in a range of products such as for surfactants, detergents, polymers and paints. The market value of succinic acid is expected to shoot up to over $1000 million by 2020. The conversion technology employed here is fermentation, a biological conversion route. Succinic acid is not unique in being high value. Poly lactic acid, also produced by fermentation of organic waste streams is 100% biodegradable and can be used for applications associated with food packaging, as an example. Biodegradable plastics are huge business at the moment, bio-plastic production is on the increase, with an expected global production capacity increase of 300% to 7.85 million tonnes, supported by current EU biopolicy legislation. Bioplastics have such been designated a lead market by the European Commission, and its success will help drive the further evolution of a Bioeconomy in Europe.

As we have seen, industrial biotechnology is a highly technical field, drawing on many different research backgrounds. For any industry involved with, or producing organic waste, specific techniques and knowledge of the many conversion routes available is necessary to support future development. There has never been a better time to get involved and to fill the skills gap that currently exist in this rapidly expanding sector.

A new and exciting online-training programme has been developed to address this skills shortage. Steered by industry, and facilitated by Aberystwyth University, a series of postgraduate distance-learning modules have been developed that can be built towards a range of postgraduate qualifications. Our new module Waste-stream Valorisation which will be launched in May provides an in-depth knowledge of the aims, objectives and technologies used to valorise and convert waste streams to produce commercially viable end products from biorefining. Learn how waste matter is being re-defined as a co-product. The module can be taken as a standalone module or built up towards an MSc, MRes or Professional Doctorate in Industrial Biotechnology. Get in touch to find out more: 01970 823224

Visit by Baroness Eluned Morgan AM


Baroness Eluned Morgan, Assembly Member for Mid & West Wales, visited IBERS on 2nd March, ahead of her keynote speech on Brexit at Aberystwyth University.

As part of her visit to Gogerddan campus, the Baroness visited the BEACON laboratory, where much of the secondary processing activity is conducted, including fermentation, filtration and steam explosion. Accompanied by Professor Iain Donnison, Director of BEACON, and Dr Joe Gallagher, the Baroness was given a brief overview of the award-winning BEACON biorefining project, and shown some feedstocks undergoing fermentation in the pilot scale facilities.

The Baroness is pictured on the left with Director of IBERS, Professor Mike Gooding.

BEACON features in the February issue of Labmate UK & Ireland!


An article featuring BEACON has been published in the February issue of Labmate UK & Ireland 42.1, pp.30-32. It highlights the contribution BEACON makes to the Welsh bioeconomy, and how Welsh companies can benefit from working with BEACON, through access to scientific research, technical expertise, and pilot-scale biorefining facilities.

In addition to developing new products and processes, engagement with BEACON can result in the creation of preliminary data or assessment of ‘proof of concept’ ideas and technologies that can attract investment or support further funding to help drive innovation.

The article can be read online here:

At the National Botanic Garden of Wales

Energy crop scientist Dr Elaine Jensen returned to the National Botanic Garden of Wales today to continue working on "The Power of Grasses" display, which will highlight the importance of a number of species she is working with, including miscanthus. Once completed, the display will provide information on the potential applications of the various grasses, such as medicinal uses and bioenergy for instance.

Welsh Soils Discussion Group

The Welsh Soils Discussion Group, which is affiliated to the British Society of Soil Science, held their winter meeting at IBERS on 1st February and BEACON energy crop scientist Dr Elaine Jensen was in attendance. One of the topics discussed was carbon storage in Welsh soils and ecosystems. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and its potential effect on climate is a cause for concern, and the organic carbon content of soils in Wales is wide ranging, reflecting different ecological factors and patterns of land use.

Scientific paper on biochar in contaminated groundwater remediation published

BEACON scientists have recently published the results of trials with various feedstocks and pyrolysis process conditions to produce a biochar which can adsorb metals from contaminated groundwater. The paper, published in Bioresource Technology, can be read here:

Of the feedstocks tested, L. perenne performed best in terms of zinc adsorption performance, while slow pyrolysis at 300 oC achieved optimum char yield and zinc adsorption performance.

Centre for Alternative Technology, Wales visit

MSc students on the Renewable Energy and the Built Environment (REBE) programme from the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) in Powys, Wales made their annual visit to the BEACON facility at IBERS to learn about the valuable research into renewable energy forms undertaken by BEACON scientists. The visit demonstrates the continuing and useful interaction between CAT and IBERS in postgraduate teaching focused on renewable technologies.

The visit was facilitated by BEACON scientist Dr Gordon Allison, who specializes in the conversion of a range of plant biomass to various energy forms. Process engineering technician, Damon Hammond, gave a talk on slow pyrolysis and the operation of the BEACON biochar rig, while energy scientist, Dr John Corton, introduced them to the pilot scale biomass primary and secondary processing facilities.

BEACON welcomes delegation of scientists from China and Poland


BEACON welcomed a delegation of scientists from the Institute of Botany, Jiangsu province and Chinese Academy of Sciences (JIB-CAS) and the Institute for Ecology of Industrial Areas, Katowice, Poland to its pilot scale processing facilities as part of a visit to the Institute of Biological, Environmental & Rural Sciences (IBERS) to explore opportunitites for growing perennial grass on saline and discuss the problem of heavy metal contamination in marginal lands.

13th International Symposium on P450 Biodiversity & Biotechnology

The 13th International Symposium on Cytochrome P450 Biodiversity and Biotechnology, held in Vancouver, Canada this year, was attended by BEACON's Professor Steve Kelly and and Dr Josie Parker. Professor Kelly presented research from the Centre for Cytochrome P450 Biodiversity. During the conference, it was announced the number of identified/known cytochromes P450 has reached one million!

Biochar Workshop


On Wednesday 23 2016 November BEACON ran a very successful one-day Biochar workshop.  Talks were given on:

  • Practical operation of a pilot-scale batch slow-pyrolysis unit (Damon Hammond, BEACON)
  • The effects of biochar application to soil (Dr Simon Jeffery, Harper Adams)
  • Use of pyrolysis in integrated systems (Dr John Corton, BEACON)
  • The trials and tribulations of commercialising biochar (Sion Brackenbury, Commons Vision Ltd)
  • Optimisation and field testing of biochar for the remediation of metal-contaminated mine water (Dr Bill Perkins, Aberystwyth University)
  • Life Cycle Analysis (Christopher Nunn, BEACON)

Attendees also had the opportunity to visit the Miscanthus plots to see the Miscanthus in its full autumn glory (led by Dr Jon McCalmont, IBERS), see the Pyrolysis rig (led by Damon Hammond, BEACON) and primary processing facilities (led by Dr John Corton, BEACON), and enjoy a little networking over lunch.

BEACON Wales is co-founder of new alliance launched to support the growth of the UK bioeconomy

BEACON is one of five established R&D centres across the UK announcing a new alliance today - BioPilotsUK. This alliance will seek to position Britain as a global leader in biorefining technology development and bio-based product manufacture – two key elements of the bioeconomy.

The founding centres are BEACON (Wales), the Biorenewables Development Centre (BDC - York), the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI - Redcar), IBioIC (Scotland) and The Biorefinery Centre (Norwich).

BioPilotsUK brings together the nation’s leading expertise and facilities to help innovative ideas navigate the so called “valley of death” by demonstrating new bio-based processes and products at a commercially-relevant scale, in turn helping clients invest in the right technologies to grow their businesses.

“What we are all about is supporting the transition away from fossil resources by making the best use of biorenewable materials and unavoidable wastes,” said Adam Charlton, BEACON Project Manager from the BioComposites Centre, Bangor University. “As an alliance, we can significantly de-risk the innovation process for anyone exploring a bio-based idea.”

By working collaboratively, the alliance seeks to significantly speed up the commercialisation of new green processes and products from biomass, including: plants, algae, and wastes.

Due to the varied nature of these raw materials, or feedstocks, there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to biorefining, rather a series of technologies that must be trialled and combined. Now, the new alliance can quickly assemble the right team for any given bio-based project using expertise and facilities from across the five centres.

The bioeconomy offers a multi-billion-pound, global business opportunity: it is worth around €2 trillion in Europe alone and is growing rapidly worldwide. Offering the potential to deliver greater business value through social, environmental and financial benefits, it is estimated that the UK bioeconomy is already worth £153 billion in gross value-added (GVA) terms, generating over four million jobs*.

“BioPilotsUK will enable Britain to realise the potential to tap both bioresources and biotechnology to create novel industrial products and processes necessary for an economically and environmentally sustainable nation,” notes Keith Waldron, Director, the Biorefinery Centre.

Professor Iain Donnison from Aberystwyth University’s IBERS (Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences), Director of BEACON, said:

“BEACON is developing new green technologies, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which are needed to deliver on the Paris climate agreement signed by world leaders at the United Nations earlier this year. Such low carbon technologies also offer new opportunities to support economic activity and jobs, in both urban and rural Wales.”

The announcement comes at the opening of annual market-leading conference, the European Forum in Industrial Biotechnology and the Bioeconomy (EFIB) 2016, which is being held in Glasgow this year.

* “Biotech Britain: An assessment of the impact of industrial biotechnology and bioenergy on the United Kingdom economy” Capital Economics, June 2015.

The hunt for new drugs from daffodils

Organic chemist and BEACON scientist, Dr Patrick Murphy, has been talking to the BBC about his work with daffodils in the hunt for potential cures for diseases. Daffodils produce a compound known as galantamine, which is already used in drugs to treat Alzheimer's, a degenerative disease affecting the brain. However other compounds called alkaloids are also found in daffodils, and Dr Murphy and his team are working on isolating and extracting the alkaloids from daffodils for medical research. Waste valorisation is an important aspect of the work conducted by BEACON, and the daffodil biomass being utilised by Dr Murphy constitutes the waste product derived from the galantamine extraction operation of a commercial partner that would otherwise have been discarded. It is hoped that the alkaloids may have future applications in antibacterial, antiparasitic, antiviral and, possibly, anti-cancer treatments.

Read the news article here:

Farewell to our Canadian students


Farewell to Christina Ure, James Park and Shannon Deehan who have been part of the BEACON team for 3 months under the Canadian Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarship programme between the University of Windsor and Aberystwyth University.  They have been working on biorefining projects under the supervision of Dr Sreenivas Rao Ravella, Dr Joe Gallagher and Dr Maurice Bosch.  We wish them all good luck for the future.

US Fulbright students visit BEACON


Aberystwyth University recently played host to eight promising students from the United States as part of the Fulbright Commission Wales Summer Institute. Enjoying a diverse academic and cultural programme, the students visited IBERS, Gogerddan to learn about the research undertaken in plant breeding and biorefining. A visit to the National Plant Phenomics Centre was followed by an informal lecture on the economic impact and benefits of biorefining, led by Dr Joe Gallagher, which highlighted the role played by BEACON and EU funds in supporting the Welsh economy through collaboration with local businesses. A tour of the BEACON pilot facility followed. The students were very engaged, comparing the different issues facing Wales and the USA in the field of biorefining, leading to a stimulating discussion.

Planting plastic

As a society we are fundamentally ambivalent to plastics. On the one hand the convenience, flexibility and durability of plastics derived from fossil fuel means that they are used for most of the consumer goods we purchase every day, from packaging right up to complex engineering components. The big four oil-based, non-biodegradable plastics are polyethylene, polypropylene, polystyrene and polyethylene terephthalate. Combined with other synthetic plastics, we produce approximately 140 million tons worldwide each year, surpassing global steel production.

On the other hand, however, the durability of synthetic plastic means they are a menace to the environment. It is estimated that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. Plastic does not readily degrade: the plastic toothbrush you discarded 6 years ago is still in existence. Furthermore, because of the fossil oil that goes into making them, plastics also contribute to global warming.

Fortunately biodegradable plastics offer a promising solution in our struggles with climate change, sustainability and environmental protection. The search for biodegradable plastics has been slow to start, but thanks to policies that promote a bio-based economy it is now beginning to achieve some momentum. Many plastics manufactures are now looking to go green. Bioplastics can be produced from starch- or cellulose-rich biorenewable feedstocks and are biodegradable; the use of bioplastics, polylactic acid derived from the cell walls of corn, for example, will eventually lead to a more sustainable society and help us to solve global environmental and waste management problems.

A technique to assess the environmental impacts associated with any production process, at all stages (including raw material use and indirect land use change, through to disposal or recycling of the product) is Life Cycle Analysis (LCA). LCA is used to inform various key bio-based policies and targets. As we would expect, LCA of bioplastics production estimates favorable GHG emission savings compared to crude oil derived plastic. This is especially true at end of their useful life, because bioplastics present greater recycling options and less landfill.  However, the high fertiliser requirement for growing bioplastic feedstocks increases environmental impacts. Growing the feedstocks also presents a greater burden with respect to indirect land use change, especially if there is need to scale up bioplastic production. To balance these negatives, feedstock breeders are now looking at breeding feedstocks that are compositionally attractive for conversion and which exhibit less dependency on water and fertiliser, and biorefineries are looking at greener ways to convert biomass into bioplastic.

Aberystwyth University is now running an innovative distance learning module in bio-based product development, which can, combined with other interesting modules, offer you a postgraduate qualification. The module will run in September 2016 and it will give all participants an in-depth knowledge of the aims, objectives and technologies of producing commercially viable bioplastics and other products obtained from plant matter. Email or telephone 01970 823224 for further information.

Royal Welsh Show


BEACON were once again present at the Royal Welsh Show in Llanelwedd from 18th - 21st July as part of the IBERS stand in the Countryside Area.  It was a very busy four days with glorious weather and a large number of visitors wanting to learn more about the various activities carried out by the BEACON team, and how EU funds are used to support Welsh businesses through collaboration with the BEACON project.

British Yeast Group (BYG) 2016

The British Yeast Group 2016 was held in Swansea University from 29 June to 1 July, and organised by BEACON's Professor Steve Kelly, Professor Diane Kelly, Dr Josie Parker and Dr Claire Price.  The speakers this year were: 

  • Prof Daniela Delneri - University of Manchester
  • Dr Megan Lenardon - University of Aberdeen
  • Prof Jane Mellor - Oxford University
  • Dr Jonathan Mullins - Swansea University
  • Prof Steve Oliver - Cambridge University
  • Prof David Rogers - University of Tennessee
  • Dr Jane Usher - University of Exeter
  • Prof Inge Van Bogaert - Ghent University
  • Prof Ray Waters - Cardiff University

The poster session on day 1 of the conference was a great mix of science and celebration, with beer provided by Mumbles Brewery, a local Swansea brewery. The dinner on day 2 was held at Swansea Waterfront Museum.

To see tweets from the Conference please click here

BEACON welcomes delegation from Brazil


A delegation from five Brazilian universities visited Aberystwyth University on Friday 10 June 2016 as part of a fact finding visit to explore possible research links and potential partnerships with UK universities.

The visit was organised by the Brazilian Association of Rectors of State and Municipal Universities (ABRUEM), a Brazilian association that represents 45 state and municipal universities, in conjunction with the British Council.

Aberystwyth University already has several existing strong research links with Brazil, particularly within IBERS.

The visit to IBERS included a tour of the award-winning BEACON facilities, led by Dr Mike Morris.

Canadian Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarship programme.

Three students from the University of Windsor, Canada, joined the BEACON team at IBERS, Aberystwyth University, in May 2016 as visiting students under the Canadian Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarship programme between the University of Windsor and Aberystwyth University.  Christina Ure, James Park and Shannon Deehan will be working on bio-refining projects under the supervision of Dr Sreenivas Rao Ravella,  Dr Joe Gallagher and  Dr Maurice Bosch.

These prestigious three-year scholarships are funded through the Community Foundations of Canada, the Rideau Hall Foundation and the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada. The funded project entitled ‘Canadian Commonwealth Scholarships in Water and Energy’ between Canada, India and UK will support up to 30 students (undergraduate, masters and doctoral level) to travel between the three countries through internship programmes. These scholarships are valued at $1.3 million, with $675,000 coming from the QEII Diamond Jubilee Scholarship program funded to University of Windsor, Canada. These scholarships will improve the research culture, environment, and profile of the Universities. Dr Joe Gallagher and Dr Sreenivas Rao Ravella from BEACON, IBERS, Aberystwyth University, are involved in this project.

BEACON scientists attend Symposium on Biotechnology for Fuels & Chemicals in Baltimore, USA

Dr Sreenivas Rao Ravella, Dr Ana Winters and Anna Suchy attended the 38th Symposium on Biotechnology for Fuels & Chemicals, from 25 – 28 April 2016, in Baltimore, USA.  The Symposium was organised by the Society for Industrial Microbiology & Biotechnology (SIMB). The Symposium on Biotechnology for Fuels and Chemicals has become one of SIMB’s major scientific meetings, and attracted participants from about 33 countries (467 registered participants), including delegates from university, industry, governmental and non-governmental organizations and venture capital providers, presenting their views on industrial bio-technology and sustainable (green) chemistry. The presentations were really interesting, especially recent developments in pre-treatment, fermentations, scale-up processes in the industrial biotechnology and bio-refining sector, and current advances in second generation cellulosic technologies.

Dr Sreenivas Rao Ravella presented a paper on ‘Optimization of pilot process for production of fermentable sugars and oligomers from grass fibre’, and received the Society for Applied Microbiology (SFAM) President’s Fund Grant to support his travel to Baltimore. He also visited the University of Florida to develop collaborative programmes. Anna Suchy presented her work on ‘Comparative study of lignins from grass, residual cereal biomass and wood for conversion to biopolymers’ and ‘Effect of steam explosion on the extraction of lignins from grass, residual cereal biomass and wood for the production of high-value products. (Climate KIC funded ADMIT BIO-SUCCINNOVATE project).

Award for Professor Steve Kelly


BEACON's Professor Steve Kelly has won the prestigious 2016 Schroepfer Medal, which has been awarded by the American Oil Chemists Society (AOCS) in recognition of his significant and distinguished accomplishments in the science and technology of oils, fats, surfactants and related material. The award recognises both the achievements and impact of Professor Kelly's long and distinguished career, and the significance and excellence of his team's research.

The Schroepfer award was established to honour the memory of George J. Schroepfer, Jr., a leader in the sterol and lipid field for more than 40 years. The award aims to foster Schroeper's ideals of personal integrity, high scientific standards, perseverance, and a strong spirit of survival, tempered by charm and wit.

Visit by Dr Hywel Ceri Jones

Dr Hywel Ceri Jones and his wife Morwenna visited the BEACON facilities on Tuesday 19  April and were given a guided tour by Professor Iain Donnison, who explained how European funding is being used to benefit Welsh businesses through collaboration with BEACON.

From 1993 to 1998, Dr Jones held senior posts in the European Commission: Director of Education, Training and Youth Policy, Director of the task force for human resources, education and training with responsibility for the conception of the EU's flagship programmes including Erasmus and Tempus.  Dr Jones was then appointed to act as Director General of the Directorate General for Employment, Social Policy and Industrial Relations (1993-1998).  During this period he had responsibility for the European Social Fund and co-directed the EU's Peace and Reconciliation Programme in Northern Ireland.  Subsequently, Dr Jones has acted as Chair of the European Policy Centre, Director of the European Network of Foundations, co-chair of the European Consortium of Foundations for Disability Rights, Governor of the European Culture Foundation and Trustee of Ecorys and the Federal Trust for Education and Research and of the Franco British Council.  In 1998-9 he served as European Adviser to the Secretary of State for Wales, chairing the all Wales taskforce on Wales and Europe.  In 2014-16 he has acted as one of the three European Funding Ambassadors to the Welsh Government, helping to promote and maximise the opportunities presented by the EU directly managed programmes.


A BBSRC KEC contingent had a very informative and enjoyable visit to the BEACON facilities on Wedneday 13 April hosted by Mike Morris.


Visit to Japan

Between 10-24 March, BEACON's Dr Jessica Adams travelled to Japan and met a number of researchers working on seaweed.  She presented a seminar at the Tokyo University for Marine Sciences and Technology (TUMSAT) and gave a presentation at the Japanese Society of Phycology annual meeting (19-20 March).  She also travelled to Hakodate in Hokkaido and met phycology researchers there.

Her aim was to form links with researchers which could lead to future collaborations.  She was also interested in the production of the red seaweed Porphyra, which is cultivated at scale in Japan for the production of nori sheets which are used for sushi and other dishes.  This is the same genus as the UK seaweed 'laver', which is wild-harvested on the West coast and eaten as the Welsh delicacy laver bread.  As part of her visit she was also able to see Porphyra harvesting, a processing plant, a distribution centre and had a tour of a regional research laboratory cultivating Porphyra.

Jessica now has a number of potential collaborators and a much greater awareness of the different culture of Japan and the relatively dominant role of seaweed in the Japanese diet compared with that in Europe and the UK.  It has also given her a number of new ideas regarding research direction and focus.

Her visit was funded through an NRN-LCEE Returning Fellowship grant, providing financial support to allow new networks and collaborations to be formed.

IBioIC - Realising the Opportunity

Take a look at Adam Charlton's presentation to the IBioIC Conference held in Glasgow, 28-29 January 2016 - click here

Radio Four PM Programme

Prof Iain Donnison was interviewed for the BBC Radio 4 PM Programme broadcast on Friday 11 March, following a recent YouGov poll of 80,000 Britons which found Ceredigion was the most enthusiastically pro-EU of all 188 areas surveyed.

New uses and applications for frankincense

BEACON scientists from Bangor University’s School of Chemistry and BioComposites Centre are working with the Compton Group, based in Swansea, in the commercial development of new products derived from frankincense. They are particularly interested in a species of frankincense (Boswellia frereana), often called the “king of frankincense”, or "Asli" in Arabic, that only grows naturally in Somalia, which has particular anti-inflamatory properties.

Dr Ahmed Ali, who hails from Somalia, is research consultant to the Compton Group, who are in discussions with commercial collaborators in the USA investigating commercial developments and efficacy testing of new products based on frankincense.

Dr Ahmed Ali says:

“I’ve been investigating frankincense for over ten years and am delighted that developments are moving apace.

“Modern pharmaceuticals and nutraceuticals need to be tested for their quality and purity. Having access to test facilities such as those at Bangor University, through the BEACON project, enables companies such as ours to investigate new uses for natural materials.”

“Previous research has established that frankincense could help people with arthritis. It is hoped that not only will pain be relieved, but also further damage to ligaments and bones will be prevented. The Compton Group are speaking with companies who want to commercialise and develop applications of new frankincense-based products for these large and important markets.”

A patent is now pending.

National Botanic Garden of Wales

BEACON are currently working with the National Botanic Garden of Wales, Carmarthenshire, to transform the space pictured below into a splendid 'Power of Grass' display.  Further updates to come!


Secret off-roading and beautiful Botanics brightened the shortest day

Elaine's enormously soggy trip to South Wales was well worthwhile as it included some very cool off-roading (all in the name of science), made all the more exciting by atrocious weather and flooding.  The details have to remain secret at present but watch this space for an exciting update on new BEACON activities in South Wales.  A return trip via the beautiful National Botanic Gardens near Carmarthen was rewarded by a cessation of rain turning to blue skies and bright winter sun.  BEACON are working with the Gardens to transform this space (pictured below) into a splendid 'Power of Grass' display that will feature the amazing and diverse uses of members of the Poaceae (grass) family.  This display will highlight many of the projects we are working on with BEACON partner companies.  The gardens receive some 140,000 visitors annually so we are enthusiastic that we get to exhibit some of the cutting edge science going on in Wales.


IBioIC - Realising the Opportunity

Rob Elias will be speaking at the IBioIC Annual Conference being held in Glasgow on 28th and 29th January 2016.

The Conference aims to attract over two hundred biobased professionals, academics and students from across the UK and is set to showcase and exemplify IBioIC's current and future activities, and provide plentiful networking opportunities in the hope of facilitating further collaborations.

With keynote presentations and sessions from some of the UK's leading academics and industry experts, other key highlights of the conference will include:

  • Members showcase on the impact and successes of IBioIC funded project collaborations.
  • Meet the PhD's and the MSc class of 2015-16
  • Panel sessions from leading technological experts around the topics of Synthetic Biology, Biotransformations, and Integrated Bioprocessing
  • A look into the challenges and barriers to IB in Scotland
  • Find out how other countries have integrated IB into their economy and gain their perspective on our achievements
  • Civic Reception hosted by the Lord Provost welcoming delegates to the City of Glasgow
  • Networking conference dinner with awards ceremony and guest speakers.


Click here for further information

Innovation Opportunities from Waste

BEACON staff have been invited to attend the "Innovation Opportunities from Waste" workshop hosted by KTN and Innovate UK to be held on 14th January 2016 at the Studio in Manchester.

The aim of this scoping workshop is to identify innovation challenges or opportunities related to the recovery of valuable materials from wastes arising from industrial activity in the UK.  The workshop will explore potential opportunities for valorising waste from key priority sectors, including construction, agri-food, health, chemicals, materials and textiles in the UK.

The results from the workshop will provide Innovate UK and KTN with robust evidence for any need to address barriers and stimulate opportunities for UK industry to maximise potential value recovery from waste generated.  The discussions will help to inform the scope for potential future Innovate UK competitions in key priority themes.

Futher information

BEACON Secures Further £12 Million Investment

The award winning BEACON green technology operation has secured an additional £12m funding via Welsh Government to continue developing the green economy in Wales over the next four years.

The new £12 million investment is announced today (Thursday 3 December) by Welsh Government Finance and Government Business Minister, Jane Hutt during an event at the Liberty Stadium, Swansea to mark the achievements of the 2014-2020 European programmes in Wales, which were launched one year ago.

Above: Following the announcement of the funds, Jane Hutt, Minister of Finance visited the BEACON facilities at Swansea University.

Backed by £8 million of EU funds, the BEACON project will see scientists from Aberystwyth, Bangor and Swansea Universities working with industry to develop renewable materials, fuels and chemicals.

Finance Minister said: “Today’s £8 million EU investment in the BEACON project is excellent news which will allow businesses in Wales to benefit from advanced scientific research to develop new products, create jobs and grow Wales’ low-carbon economy.”

BEACON is a Welsh Government EU funded collaboration led by Aberystwyth University with Bangor and Swansea Universities where scientists specialising in bio-refining.

They are working with small and medium sized enterprises, to develop renewable materials, fuels and chemicals as well as modified and new environmental and economically sustainable processes.

Biorefining is the sustainable processing of biomass into a wide range of bio-based products, chemicals and materials, and bioenergy - biofuels, power and/or heat.

BEACON was established in 2011 and has achieved or exceeded all its targets in assisting companies and creating jobs in the green economy in Wales and making a significant contribution to combating climate change.

Professor Mike Gooding, Director of the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) in Aberystwyth said: “By pooling the knowledge and using the joint expertise of our three universities, we are putting Wales on the map in this growing sector and playing a part in responding to a major global challenge.

“The BEACON operation is using the most advanced academic research to provide practical solutions to global problems.

“The research we do here in bio-refining is developing sophisticated processes to turn locally grown crops into valuable chemicals and commercial products, ranging from fuels to cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, textiles, food and health products.

“Bio-refining means that full use is made of crops, whilst cutting back on emissions of greenhouse gases. IBERS is already carrying out innovative work in producing fuels from energy crops such as miscanthus (Asian elephant grass) and high-sugar grasses.”

Professor Iain Donnison from Aberystwyth University’s IBERS (Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences) is Director of BEACON and said: “BEACON is driven by the challenging targets for the adoption of green technologies and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions that have been set by national governments and the European Union.”

“Low carbon technologies including biorefining and industrial biotechnology are seen as important growth sectors and will need sustainable supply chains that will generate economic activity and jobs, and it is these that provide the focus for the work being done in and for Wales at BEACON.”

BEACON Exhibits at VentureFest Wales SWALEC Stadium Cardiff

This years’ VentureFest Wales was held in the SWALEC Stadium, Cardiff City Centre on Tuesday 29th September.

With over 900 delegates registered to attend the event, VentureFest brings together entrepreneurs, investors, and innovative companies to inspire business growth. A free event, the day hosted a number of exhibitors, speakers, workshops and meet the expert sessions.


Above: Selwyn Owen, Business Development Manager, maning the BEACON stand.

Below: Some samples on display - Recovered MDFR, recycled into insulation.

Collaboration with University of Windsor, Canada

We are happy to share the news about receipt of Canadian Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarships. These prestigious three-year scholarships are funded through the Community Foundations of Canada, the Rideau Hall Foundation and the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada. The funded project entitled ‘Canadian Commonwealth scholarships in water and energy’ between Canada, India and UK will support up to 30 students (undergraduate, masters and doctoral level) to travel between the three countries through internship programmes. These scholarships are valued at $1.3 million, with $675,000 coming from the QEII Diamond Jubilee Scholarship program funded to University of Windsor, Canada. These scholarships will improve the research culture, environment, and profile of the Universities. Dr. Joe Gallagher and Dr. Sreenivas Rao Ravella from BEACON, IBERS, Aberystwyth University, are involved in this project.

11th International Conference on Renewable Resources and Biorefineries

The 11th International Conference on Renewable Resources and Biorefineries this year took place on June 3-5 2015, in York. The conference attracted a range of delegates from university, industry, governmental and non-governmental organizations and venture capital providers presenting their views on industrial bio-technology, sustainable (green) chemistry, and agricultural policy related to the use of renewable raw materials for non-food applications and energy supply.

[BEACON Exhibition at the RRB'11 Conference; Displaying a selection of biobased products developed through the BEACON project]

The conference provided an overview of the scientific, technical, economic, environmental and social issues of renewable resources and biorefineries to drive the bio-based economy and to present new developments in this area. The conference also provided a forum for leading political, corporate, academic and financial people to discuss recent developments and set up collaborations.

The three day international conference consisting of plenary lectures and oral presentations by international experts, a poster session and an exhibition attracted 400 international participants from over 30 countries. Members of the BEACON team were also in attendance and exhibited at the event.

[L-R Selwyn Owen (Business Development Manager); Dave Preskett (Development Chemist); Dr Joe Gallagher (Aberystwyth Project Manager; Dr David Bryant (Co-Investigator)]

Bright Horizons Holiday Club

On 27th May Elaine Jensen visited children at the Bright Horizons holiday club during half term week. There were 23 children aged 4-11 and they listened attentively, interacted well, and asked and answered lots of questions around the areas of fossil fuels, carbon, energy sources, and how scientists in BEACON are using plants to make amazing products and help reduce our fossil fuel usage. The children saw examples of products made from plants, learned about the use of different plants (food and non food) and entered a competition about the use of Miscanthus and how quickly it grows, even in Wales. The children all received a BEACON pen, sticky note pad and fuzzy bug.

Dr Preeti Nandal, Stapledon Fellow

Dr Preeti Nandal joined the BEACON team at IBERS, Aberystwyth University, in May 2015 as a Stapledon Fellow for six months.  Preeti will be working on “Xylooligosaccharides production from grass fibres” under the supervision of Dr Sreenivas Rao Ravella and Dr Joe Gallagher. Her area of work includes the production of xylooligosaccharides from grass fibre (Lolium pernne) and pilot scale process development at the BEACON biorefining facility. She was awarded her PhD in Microbiology from University of Delhi, India, in 2014 for a thesis on ‘Bioprocessing for production of inoculum and laccase from Coriolopsis caperata RCK2011 under solid state fermentation’, with potential applications in production of biofuel, biofeed and in bioremediation. During her PhD she published a joint paper with Aberystwyth University on process optimization using Taguchi DOE methodology, published in Scientific Reports by Nature Publishing Group.

Brewer & Distiller Intenational Review April 2015 Issue

This month's issue of "Brewer and Distiller International" magazine boasts a great review of the BEACON seminar on "Enhanced Utilisation of Alcoholic Beverage By-Products", held in Neuadd Reichel, Bangor University late January this year. BDI's Wales correspondent Mike Butterworth who attended the event reports...

Further information on BEACON's work within the enhanced utilisation of alcoholic beverage by-prodcuts sector can be ontained from:

For more information on Brewer and Distiller International please contact Mike Butterworth via

3rd BEACON Annual Conference

The 2015 BEACON Annual Conference was held at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff on Wednesday 25 March and, by the number of complimentary comments received, delegates had an enjoyable and informative day.

The Conference sessions included:

  • Integrated Supply Chains
  • Natural Product Biotechnology
  • Funding Opportunities
  • Flash presentations

Our thanks go to Julie Williams, Chief Scientific Officer for Wales, who was the keynote speaker and to all speakers for their entertaining and informative talks.  The speakers were:

  • David Bryant - Aberystwyth University
  • Muyiwa Akintoye - Quorn Foods
  • Craig Bartlett - MDF Recovery
  • Yvonne Armitage - KTN Network
  • Quentin Clark -  Waitrose
  • Charlotte Bell - BBSRC
  • Robert Poyer - Natural Environmental UK
  • Tony Guile - Welsh Government
  • Ian Holmes - Innovate UK
  • Ana Palanca - Aimplas
  • Kevin Stephens - BioExtractions Wales
  • Celine Anoulih - CIWM
  • Natasha Spadfora -  Cardiff University
  • Dhivya Puri - Fiberight
  • David Carson - EcoSphere
  • Baudewijn Morgan - Welsh Government
  • Jonathan Hughes - Pennotec
  • John Carvell - Aber Instruments
  • Anthony Lloyd - Novasep

Please see below some photos from the day:




Claire Price leads “Detective Scientists” event during Science Week with Biochemical Outreach Grant

BEACON research assistant Claire Price, based at Swansea University was recently awarded an outreach grant from the Biochemical Society. The society wishes to support scientific outreach activities that communiate the excitement of molecular bioscience to young people and the community. Applications are invited for sums up to £1,000 to assist with the direct costs associated with events.

Claire's event took place on Thursday 19th March 2015 and formed part of the Science Week activities at Abercanaid Community School, Merthyr Tydfil. The event focused on promoting scientific investigation, scientific thinking and enhancing English language skills. Students were three samples: sugar, bicarbonate of soda and cornflour, and were then given crime scene investigations scenario where they needed to identify the different white powder substances using scientific methods.

More information on the event can be found at 

Where Next for Green Growth? Breakfast Networking Event, Cardiff Bay

As part of Climate Change week BEACON hosted “Where Next for Green Growth?”, a breakfast networking event discussing the importance of sustainability and product lifecycle assessment.

 Peter Davies OBE, Chairman of Climate Change Commission for Wales provided an excellent key note address and was accompanied by Dr Rob Elias, Director of BioComposites Centre; Campbell Skinner, BEACON Life Cycle Analyst; Chris Williams, Director of Innoture; and Dr Ahmed Ali Research Director at Compton Group.

The breakfast event held at San Martino’s, Cardiff Bay was well attended and provided a great and successful networking opportunity for all of those there.

BEACON exhibit as Bronze Sponsors of BioWales 2015

BEACON exhibited as proud Bronze sponsors of the annual BioWales conference which was held on the 4th and 5th March this week at the Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff.

The two day event is the largest of its kind in the UK, which provides many opportunities to attend workshops and meet innovative organisations within the life sciences sector. BioWales this year again welcomed an international line-up of speakers and industry experts to deliver key note address and led the showcase presentations and discussions around supply chain opportunities and developments.

As well as a great day line-up, an evening gala dinner was held and provided a great networking opportunity for delegates in a relaxed atmosphere with entertainment provided by the Welsh National Opera.


Realizing the Bioeconomy in the Baltic Sea Region

Edward Hodgson and David  Bryant attended the Realizing the Bioeconomy in the Baltic Sea Region - Workshop III held at Warsaw University of Life Science on 4-5 March 2015.  This workshop is the third of three planned under an initiative by the Nordic Council of Ministers to speed up the realization of the bioeconomy in the Baltic Sea Region. 

The Workshop aimed to provide information on Polish perspectives, efforts and experiences on realising the bioeconomy - thereby seeking to engage more Polish partners in further co-operation activites; take stock of current Baltic Sea Region bioeconomy co-operation efforts and their results and to set out a 3-year framework for further co-operation to realize the bioeconomy in the Baltic Sea Region.

Princess Royal Shown STARS Project

Princess Anne was shown a range of sustainable packaging products made from ryegrass which were the successful result of the A4B STARS project.

The Princess Royal visited Bangor Univerity's Henfaes Research Station at Abergwyngregyn on Friday 27th February. Dr Rob Elias, Director of the BioComposites Centre, and Karen Graley, Manager of Packaging and Reprographics Waitrose Brand Development and Innovation, were there to exhibit the work that is being undertaken at the BioComposites Centre on sustainable packaging. Princess Anne showed a good deal of interest and knowledge and asked about the impact on land and food security and the product Life Cycle Analysis.

Slow-Pyrolysis plant back up and running

After a period of maintenance and cleaning, the batch slow-pyrolysis plant is back up and running.  Over the new year we have been busy producing pressed-grass chars for the Department of Geography and Earth Science for their DEFRA mine water remediation project.


We are now starting a new project to run for the next four months, charring waste biomass supplied by the National Coal Authority, focusing on the characteristics of chars produced over a range of slow-pyrolysis temperatures, which we hope will front up what the plant can do, optimising its flexibility and capacity.

Workshop on the networking of Pilot Plants and Field Trial Sites

Mike Morris attended a workshop on the networking of Pilot Plants and Field Trial Sites in Bonn, Germany on 18-19 February 2015.  The workshop was organised by Science Europe Working Group on Researach Infrastructures in liaison with the Scientific Committees for Engineering and Life, Environmental and Geo Sciences. 

The workshop convened funders, managers and operators of facilities to investigate the following: Can research infrastructures at the interface between academia and industry be used more efficiently and effectively? What are the barriers? What can be improved? How can the networking of these research infrastructures help?

The creation of a European RI network can trigger discussions on both generic and topical aspects. Hence the workshop was structured along parallel sessions to discuss specificities of both selected sectors and joint sessions to foster the cross-fertilisation of ideas for initiating transnational networks.

Moleculomics assisted by BEACON

A company assisted by BEACON has been featured on the UK Government website. Collaboration originally focussed on carbohydrate metabolism and is now being used as a drug discovery platform.  Moleculomics builds computer-based platforms to use simulations and modelling for faster and more reliable antimicrobial development programmes.

For more information click here

Potential Project - Grass Biorefining

Joe Gallagher attended a meeting in Copenhagen on the 28th January to discuss a potential upcoming project in the area of grass biorefining. A consortium is being formed to submit a project on grass biorefining to the European ‘Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change’ (FACCE-JPI) funding call. This aligns with research carried out in the BEACON project in the area of sustainable feedstock biorefining.

Enhanced Utilisation of Alcoholic Beverage By-Products Seminar

On January 22nd 2015, BEACON held a seminar on the enhanced utilisation on alcoholic beverage by-products at Neuadd Reichel, Bangor University. The seminar comprised presentations on alcoholic beverage ingredients, by-products, challenges and opportunities within the industry. A well-attended event by businesses from SME’s to multinationals across the UK, with over 70 delegates registered for the day.

The day began with introductory presentations from the BEACON team on the project, life cycle analysis and highlighting the opportunities [and potential applications] across the alcoholic beverage sector in Wales.

Our first external speaker was Andrew Martin, from the Welsh Government to discuss and highlight the challenges and opportunities from the alcoholic beverage sector across Wales. As head of business for food and drink across Wales, Andrew is the link between business and Welsh Government policy in the sector. He leads on business, skills, culture and innovation in the sector, and has recently taken over on strategic lead no Food and Drink RDP.

The next talk was by Bill Dobson, head brewer at SA Brains spoke about the co-products produced in a brewery giving his practical experience on working within a mid-sized brewery. Bill joined Brains in 2007 as head brewer, and has since crafted recipes for beers including Milkwood and Brains Black, as well as overseeing the development of a craft brewery in 2012.

Our final talk before the morning break was from Paul Corbett, managing director at Charles Faram. Paul gave an interesting insight into hop production and the opportunities for the by-products created, including biofuels, stationary and flax / hemp for use in twine / rope. Paul has worked at Charles Faram & Co for 25 years and became managing director in 1996.

Carl Heron stand in for David Griggs - Crisp Malting gave the first talk after the morning networking session on the malting process – products and co-products. A great explanation of the malting process was given with some interesting co-products identified, including small corns, husk pieces and barley dust.

Our next speaker of the day was from a microbrewer in South Wales, Rob Turner at Mumbles Brewery. Rob gave a thought provoking talk on the resources and recovery of co-products in the micro-brewing process. Rob had a career as a lecturer and student counsellor, and later left academia to ‘get his hands dirty’ setting up Mumbles Brewery. The very first trial batch of ale received critical acclaim, being the first beer to sell out at CAMRA’s Swansea Bay Beer and Cider Festival. Mumbles Gold went on to become the breweries best seller.

After a morning of speakers from the brewing industry, next we welcomed speakers with a cider perspective. Our first speaker was Keith Thomas, University of Sunderland to give an overview of the cider production process. Keith gave a great overview of cider production and identified interesting alternative uses for the co-products produced, including anaerobic digestion, soil amendment, biotechnology and food. Keith began work in bioremediation in 1977, working for his doctorate in the digestion of paper waste by Aspergillus fungi. He subsequently used his fermentation experiences in the brewing industry and in 1986 founded Brewlab to provide training and analytical services to the brewing and beverage industries.

Our final speaker before lunch was from John Clarke at Apple County Cider providing a practical overview of the cider production process. John brought to the debate years of consulting to the food and drink industry, an enthusiasm for checking out all forms of innovation with a belief that this is key to new product development, and a fascination with cost-effective tinkering to create prototype equipment before scaling up.
During the lunch break, delegates had the opportunity to network as well sample some of the beverages from the speakers businesses.

After lunch we had our final speaker of the day, Buster Grant providing a cross-industry perspective of alcoholic beverages in Wales. Buster gave a comprehensive overview of the alcoholic beverage industry, demonstrating similarities in alcohol production and exploring what’s next for the industry. Buster owns his own brewery, Brecon Brewing, and has been instrumental in founding the Association of Welsh Independent Brewers. In 2010 he was elected onto the board of directors of SIBA (Society of Independent Brewers), and in 2013 Buster was one of the founding directors of Drinks Wales – a collaborative association representing the Welsh alcoholic drinks industry.

The seminar concluded with a facilitated workshop by the chair Dr Rob Elias on future research opportunities, projects and partnerships.


Natural Cosmetics Seminar






















BEACON in association with the High Value Chemicals from Plants BBSRC Network WISE Network held a Natural Cosmetics seminar in Bangor on 12th January 2015. The seminar comprised presentations on cosmetics ingredients, legislation and innovation. It was well attended by businesses from cottage industries to multinationals, support organisations and academics from the UK.






















Prof Cathie Martin from the John Innes Centre and Persephone Bio Ltd gave an inspiring talk on phenolic compounds derived from tomato plants. Her previous scientific research developed tomato strains with increased concentrations of different specific polyphenolics, above 1 mg per g dry weight. A simple processing step yields the compounds in aqueous solution, a procedure acceptable for obtaining cosmetic ingredients.

The next talk by Elaine Eggington from IP Pragmatics on innovation in the cosmetics industry outlined the different approaches to patentable innovation, such as novel extraction protocols, underutilised plants or specific activities of extracts or compound. She gave a worldwide view and highlighted the most active players in the area. Elaine also explained other forms of innovation protection such as know how and their relevance.

Bernice Ridley from Croda enlightened the audience on the variety of cosmetic ingredients and how these are manufactured sustainably.

Olivia Santoni from the Cosmetics Toiletry & Perfume Association gave an overview of the current legislation on cosmetics products and requirements for manufacturers.

Flash presentations followed on different isolation approaches, biologically active compounds from green biomass and chemical modification of chitosan.

The last talk was on branding from a consumer perception and considerations for packaging deliver by Chris Hillier and Rebecca Colley-Jones from WISE Network.

The seminar concluded with facilitated workshop sessions on branding, resource efficiency, research needs and small scale producers. The chair Dr Vera Thoss commented “The seminar offered an overview of cosmetic innovation, ingredients, legislation and marketing combined with ample time for networking and discussion which was well received by all attendees.”

BBSRC Pool of Experts

Congratulations to Prof Steve Kelly and Prof Diane Kelly of Swansea University on being invited onto the BBSRC Pool of Experts for 2015.

Royal Welsh Winter Fair

BEACON once again had a presence on the IBERS stand at the Royal Welsh Winter Fair on 1st and 2nd December.  Sian and Kirstie attended on Monday were busy distributing flyers to promote the upcoming seminars on Natural Cosmetics and Enhanced Utilisation of Alcoholic Bevarage By-Products to be held in Bangor in January 2015.  On Tuesday Mike and Sian attended and were kept busy talking to lots of interested visitors.

University of Tennessee

Prof Steve Kelly gave a presentation featuring BEACON research on 1st December at the University of Tennessee as the 2014 Distinguished Visiting Professor in the College of Pharmacy.

Selwyn Owen, Business Development Manager Visits Goiana, Brazil

The British Council and the Foundation for the State of Goiás Research (FAPEG) held this years’ British Council Education seminar at the Federal University of Goiás (UFG), in Goiania, Brazil on the theme: “Innovation and Collaborative Research: University and Enterprise” on November 26 2014.


Selwyn Owen Business Development Manager, BEACON, Aberystwyth University was one of four speakers at the event, and presented on “Collaborative Research, Innovation & Benefits to Society”, with Professor Dr Candido Borges, Transfer Coordinator and Technological Innovation, (UFG) as moderator. 

This Global Education Dialogue approached the theme of innovation and collaborative research, with special attention to the training of entrepreneurs, management of innovation centres and the development of spin-offs. The event brought together delegates from academia and industry in Brazil and the UK to discuss the latest trends and challenges of innovation in universities; transferring knowledge generated by academic research to society; and fostering closer links with industry resulting in increased collaboration. 

The day was well attended with a variety of delegates including senior managers for research and innovation, heads of innovation and technology transfer departments, managers of innovation centres and incubators, and heads of entrepreneurship programmes.

Links to Presentations as follows:

Claudio Anjos, Director Education and Society British Council Brazil Innovation and Collaborative Research between Universities and Enterprises

Selwyn Owen, Business Development Manager, BEACON, Aberystwyth University Collaborative Research, Innovation & Benefits to Society

Prof. Phil Macnaghten Durham University UNICAMP Responsible innovation and GM crops: A governance framework for university-industry-government collaboration

Jake Broadhurst, Head, Global Academies Directorate, University of Edinburgh Innovation and university – industry relationships: Strategy meets Strategic Agility

Bangor University and Waitrose branch out into Green Packaging

A collaborative project led by the BioComposites Centre at Bangor University , in partnership  with Aberystwyth University and Waitrose was on show at the Waitrose Menai Bridge store on the 18th November.


The STARS project, funded with support from the Welsh Government through the Academic Expertise for Business Scheme, has been turning grass into a range of products including biodegradable packaging for supermarket products and biofuels for transport, in collaboration with Waitrose and several industrial partners.  Bangor University has focused on producing food packaging from the grass fibre, while Aberystwyth University has been working on the conversion of grass juice to biofuels. 

The idea behind the grass packaging is that this material fibre can go into the same compost bin as the food it was used to display, giving an environmentally alternative to the tons and tons of plastics we are using today, reducing landfill and in turn the environmental impact on our planet.

The Waitrose store hosted a display of the range of products that have been produced as a result of this collaboration, and the group were canvassing the opinions of the general public during the day in order to feed back into their research and development.

All the packaging on show is made on Anglesey at Bangor University’s Research and Development facility at Mona, so not only is the product environmentally friendly it has not travelled miles to get here. The group has been proud to work with local companies and producers to create a truly Welsh product.  The project partners visited the store to look at the display at 2pm on the day:

Bangor University’s Vice Chancellor Professor John G. Hughes and Waitrose’s Head of Sustainability Quentin Clark along with Derek Davies from Adare, one of the project partners who supplied the equipment that was used to produce the packaging, attended the event.

Quentin Clark from Waitrose said:  "Waitrose has been very pleased to have been involved with this work for a number of reasons. Obviously, the opportunity to explore novel ways to create more sustainable materials, such as packaging, holds its own attraction but this has been a great demonstration of a more open approach that shows how Academia and business can work together, each contributing their expertise, to help deliver real, practical science to the market"

Bangor University’s Vice Chancellor, Professor John G. Hughes said:  “The Biocomposites centre at Bangor has a strong track record of working collaboratively with Companies in Wales in order to commercialise sustainable products.  Bangor is proud to be part of this very exciting project and we look forward to seeing the collaboration develop as part of the University’s commitment to Wales and local business.”

Adare’s Derek Davies said:  “Adare have gained valuable knowledge from this project, from the technical aspects of using grass as a feed stock and for fiber-based packaging to the customer interaction.”

One other interesting angle to this project is that the wife of Nick Laflin the Chief Technician for the project is a partner at Waitrose! 

Harvest Lunch

Staff held a "bring a dish" lunch in the BEACON office to mark the end of the successful harvest season.  Sian has her fibre, Vince is pleased with his silage and there is plenty of juice in the freezer.  A very enjoyable lunch time!


Visit to Brussels and Austria

Sreenivas Rao Ravella attended the EU Climate KIC meeting in Welsh Government Offices, Brussels on 22nd and 23rd of September.

Following on from that on, 25th of September, he visited ACIB (Austrian Centre of Industrial Biotechnology), Graz, Austria.  ACIB is a company that bundles the expertise of key researchers from seven Austrian universities in the multiple disciplines of industrial biotechnology and bioengineering, as well as attracting national and international biotechnological industry, and internationally renowned research institutions as integrated project partners.

On 26th September he visited the Institute of Biotechnology and Biochemical Engineering, Graz University of Technology and met Prof. Klimacek Mario and met with Dr. Rama Gudiminchi, Sr. Scientist of ACIB on 29th of September for further collaborations.

Third Bioeconomy Stakeholders Conference, Turin

The third Bioeconomy Stakeholders Conference “From sectors to system, from concept to reality” was hosted by the Italian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, in collaboration with the European Commission, on 8-9 October 2014.

Mike Morris, Steve Kelly and Adam Charlton attended and gave a presentation on BEACON along with Quentin Clark from Waitrose.  They had a very successful conference and made many useful contacts including Mads Randboll Wolff , Catia Bastioli and Stanislaw Bielecki.

The Conference built on the conclusions and key recommendations of the last two Bioeconomy Stakeholders Conferences held in Copenhagen (February 2012) and Dublin (March 2013).

In particular, the Italian Conference aimed to trigger discussion on how to integrate the concept of the Bioeconomy into European policies, fostering stronger policy coordination at national, regional and local level, in light of the EU 2020 strategy, the Horizon 2020 overarching goal and the Smart Specialization Strategy.

The Conference gathered experts and a wide range of stakeholders from industry, academia and end-users to discuss the routes to close the industrial research-market gap and maximize the knowledge-based development potential of local regions in the following Bioeconomy key areas:

• Primary Production: the role of agriculture, forestry and marine resources, Agro-food by-products and waste as additional biomass sources;
• Biomass Transformation and Integrated Biorefineries;
• Horizontal key elements needed for a strong Bioeconomy in Europe;
• Innovation and key supporting measures;
• Implementation tools at national and regional level.

How to Launch a Microbrewery Seminar

This exciting seminar was held at Liberty Stadium, Swansea, on Friday 3 October.


The large-scale seminar featured a panel of expert speakers from all aspects the craft brewing industry, providing a comprehensive overview of the creative, technical and business elements of establishing a microbrewery. Topics covered on the day included:

  •   The craft beer revolution, what craft beer is, and why this is such an exciting time for microbreweries
  •   How to make your brewery stand out from the crowd
  •   How to design and produce new beers
  •   Creating recipes: spotting market trend, and developing your own new ideas
  •   How to choose and source hops and malt
  •   Brewery finances: the cost of brewing your first pint

This Master class was run in partnership with the Guardian Masterclasses.

ADAPTAVATE UK Representative at CleanLauchPad Grad EU Final

ADAPTAVATE a new start-up company is re-thinking the way building materials are made. They are developing bio composites which can be used in various products and materials in the built environment. This starts with their first product; a low carbon alternative to plasterboard.

After approaching the BioComposites centre, ADAPTAVATE received assistance through the LIMNet project to promote their technology by entering the Climate KIC EU CleanLaunchPad competition.

CleanLaunchpad is Europe’s largest cleantech business idea competition. In three stages the CleanLaunchpad competition leads-up to the EU finals in October in Valencia, Spain. The winner of the EU final receives € 10,000, the runner up gets € 5,000 and the idea that comes in third place wins € 2,500. And the real prize is that these three winners also get accepted into the Climate-KIC Accelerator, the world’s first real-life business school for promising cleantech entrepreneurs.

’Co-opetition’ was high at the National Final in the UK on 24th of September; ADAPTAVATE felt it was important to focus only on what they had to do. It proved a successful strategy, and on September 30th the Jury qualified ADAPTAVATE as one of the UK representatives for the CleanLaunchpad Grand EU Final.

ADAPTAVATE since meeting with LIMNet have also began working with BEACON and are in the early stages of collaboration.

Alberto Fernández and BC staff member Dafydd Roberts at Biorefining Tech Transfer Centre begining their collaboration with the BEACON project.

Africa Workshop

John Corton recently attended an African multidisciplinary workshop aimed at developing ways of benefitting rural communities in Africa through integrating food and fuel production sustainably.  Several projects took form which the group hope to progress further through research.

BEACON at the Royal Welsh Show 2014

BEACON once again had an area within the IBERS stand at the Royal Welsh Show which was held 21-24 July in baking hot weather.   The stand was bustling with visitors and staff were kept busy supplying them with cold refreshments!  Kirstie's Process Roulette wheel was especially popular with younger visitors while their parents chatted to staff.  The Fullbright students who were due to visit us at IBERS on the 25th called at the stand and had an interesting discussion with Selwyn.


BEACON area on IBERS stand                               Kirstie with Process Roulette wheel


Selwyn with Fullbright students                           Gordon chatting to visitors

Rhydypennau School visit

On Tuesday 15 July a group of Year 6 pupils from Rhydypennau school had a very enjoyable visit.   They looked around the BEACON facilities and large items of kit in the company of Sian Jones and were amazed  to see the range of products that can be made from grass!




Venturefest Wales 2014

BEACON have been taking part in Venturefest Wales in Cardiff today.  It aims to bring together entrepreneurs, investors and innovators to inspire them to grow their businesses in Wales and beyond. It is the first event of its kind in Wales, giving entrepreneurs and investors the opportunity to connect with each other, share ideas, meet experts and find solutions that will encourage business growth.

Venturefest Wales offers a unique mix of interactive workshops and debates, inspirational speakers and one-to-one sessions with experts and mentors. The free event runs throughout the day and also includes a showcase of the most innovative companies, a business exhibition, the Venturefest Den and lively entertainment.


Irish Sea Maritime Forum Third Annual Conference - “Blue Growth”

Jessica Adams and Kirstie Jones attended the Irish Sea Maritime Forum's Third Annual Conference which was held in Liverpool on Wednesday 2 July.  The conference aimed to showcase the Blue Growth potential in the Irish Sea region and to feed into an ISMF report on the subject.

The first session set the scence by introducing the EU's ambitions for Blue Growth and how different parts of the Irish Sea regions are taking this agenda forward.  In the second session ideas to create a vibrant Irish Sea Rim economic, research and innovation zone were introduced.  Delegates then participated in 2 thematic workshops related to key Blue Growth areas: Commercial Shipping; Blue Energy; Fisheries and Aquaculture; Blue Biotechnology; Marine and Coastal Recreation and Tourism; Environmental and Coastal Protection and Monitoring and Surveillance.  Jessica and Kirstie facilitated the Blue Biotechnology workshop.  This is an important area when considering blue growth and especially important as it is a new and fast growing sector.  During the workshop they tackled issues using SWOT analysis and discussed blue bio technology-Irish Sea case studies/funding opportunities and what the future holds for the blue biotechnology sector.  Jessica then presented these findings at the end of the conference.

The final session provided an update on ISMF activities in 2013/14 and plans for 2014/15. Throughout the day there were opportunities to view an exhibition illustrating how companies and other organisations around the Irish Sea are contributing to Blue Growth in the region.



BBSRC International Partnering Award visit to India

Joe Gallagher, Sreenivas Rao Ravella, David Bryant and Maurice Bosch began their visit to India on Wednesday 25 June with a visit to Gaytri Bioorganics Limited in Hyderabad which is one of the largest manufacturing units in south India of starch, modified starches, liquid glucose and sorbital and its allied products.  Joe Gallagher gave a presentation on IBERS research facilities.  They then moved on to the Gaytri Bioorganics Limited factory at Nandikandi.

The following day they visited and had a tour of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) in Hyderabad.  This is a premier research organization in frontier areas of modern biology.  They also visited ICRISAT which is a non-profit, non-political organization that conducts agricultural research for development in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa with a wide array of partners throughout the world.

On 28 June they visited the National Dairy Research Institute (NDRI) at Karnal where a tree was planted by Joe Gallagher to initiate the beginning of the International partnering award.


Joe  Gallagher at NDRI                                                Joe Gallagher with Vice Chancellor Dr A K Srivastava at NDRI


Tree planting by Joe Galalgher at NDRI

Visit to CCMB, Hyderabad                                        Visit to Climate Resilient Livestock Research Centre, NDRI

Visit to Gayatri Biorefining company                     Visit to ICRISAT, Hyderabad

Sreenivas, Dave and Joe with Julie Hoffer,          With Prof Puniya at Karnal


Welsh Government Staff Visit

A group of Welsh Government staff visited IBERS on Wednesday 25 June.  They spent time at the Phenomics centre and Genomics labs and had a tour of the BEACON primary processing and secondary processing labs where they were given a very interesting and informative talk by Mike Morris.


BEACON 2nd Annual Conference 2014

Another very successful Conference was held this year at Liberty Stadium, Swansea, on Thursday 15 May, on a gloriously sunny day.  A great line of of speakers gave interesting and informative talks on subject areas incuding:

  • Impact and Capability
  • Business Interactions
  • Industrial Symbiosis
  • Emerging Sectors

Huge thanks go to our guest speakers who were:  David Rooke, Sarum Biosciences; Jonathan Hughes, Pennotec; Keith Corbett, Clifford Jones Timber Limited; Michelle Carter, BioSciences KTN; David Elliott, DGE Consultancy and Gary Newman,  Alliance for Sustainable Building Products.

Please see below some photos from the day:



RegioStars Article in Daily Post

Please click here for Daily Post article on RegioStars Award 2014.

Minister says EU funds are vital to Wales

Finance Minister Jane Hutt has told Commissioner Johannes Hahn that EU funds have been essential to Wales as a Welsh project is recognised by the EU as one of the most innovative schemes across Europe.

The Minister said the  University led BEACON bio-refining project winning the prestigious EU RegioStars 2014 demonstrated how well Wales has invested EU funds. The project was one of four winners out of 19 finalists chosen from 80 selected projects being delivered across EU regions and cities in 17 Member States.

Meeting with Regional Policy European Commissioner Hahn the Minister also said she was very encouraged by the level of engagement taking place between Welsh Government, the European Commission and all sectors in Wales in preparing the new EU Structural Funds programmes 2014-2020 so they support economic growth and jobs in Wales.

The Minister said: “EU funds are vital to the Welsh economy and I am delighted that Wales is delivering innovative and inspiring  EU-funded projects which are being recognised across the EU. This not only demonstrates the high quality of projects being implemented in Wales, but also the positive impact they are having on our people, the economy, and the environment.”

She added: "The new EU funding programmes will build on these successes, and the Welsh Government is continuing to work closely with Welsh partners on future project proposals so that we can hit the ground running as soon as the programmes are agreed by the European Commission – expected this summer."

The BEACON project is led by IBERS at Aberystwyth University in partnership with Swansea and Bangor Universities. The project is helping to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by working with businesses to develop new, sustainable products and services from plants using a process known as bio-refining. Through the project a Bio-refining Centre of Excellence has been established in Wales, which is helping Wales in progressing towards a low-carbon economy. BEACON won the EU award in the category for Sustainable growth: Green growth and jobs through Bio-economy.

Commissioner Hahn said: “The winners chosen by the jury show Regional Policy in action. They and all the finalists are an inspiration for other regions and cities around Europe and I congratulate them all most heartily.

"They demonstrate innovative and dynamic approaches in the use of Structural Funds for boosting growth and creating jobs embodying the spirit of our reform. The projects address the biggest current challenges like tackling youth unemployment, combating pollution and climate change, promoting sustainable transport and supporting SME innovation.

"They demonstrate that EU Regional Policy relies above all on the energy and creativity locally."

Professor April McMahon, Vice-Chancellor of Aberystwyth University said: "Winning this important EU award is tribute to the hard work and commitment of the BEACON team led by Aberystwyth University. With our university partners in Bangor and Swansea we are working with industry, and pooling scientific expertise and cutting-edge technology to make a significant contribution to developing the green economy in Wales."

Another Welsh project, Swansea’s Transport Quadrant Interchange , also reached the final in the category for CITYSTAR: Investments projects in sustainable urban public transport.

The RegioStars awards have been organised by the European Commission since 2008 to highlight original and innovative projects and were judged on innovation, impact, sustainability and partnership.

Wales will be submitting its Structural Funds operational programmes for negotiation and agreement with the European Commission within the next few weeks following submission of the UK Government’s Partnership Agreement to the European Commission.

BEACON Scoops RegioStars Award 2014

BEACON Scoops RegioStars Award 2014 Sustainable Growth: Green Growth & Jobs through Bio-Economy

Sustainable Growth

BEACON received its award at the ceremony held at Palais des Beaux-Arts (BOZAR) in Brussels on March 31st 2014. The Regio Stars Awards are held as part of the EC’s “Regions for Economic Change” initiative, which aims to highlight good practice in urban and regional development. Over 80 nominations were received for the 2013/14 session, from funding regions throughout the EU member states.

Winning Entry

Led by Aberystwyth University’s Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) in partnership with Bangor and Swansea University, BEACON was one of 4 projects to be shortlisted in the “Sustainable Growth: Green growth and jobs through Bioeconomy” category.















Picture From L-R: Adam Charlton (Projects Manager, Bangor), Joe Gallagher (Projects Leader, Aberystwyth), Steve Kelly (Professor, Swansea), Iain Donnison (Director), Jane Hutt (Minister of Finance), David Sheperd (PVC Bangor), Garry Reid (Director of Research & Enterprise, Bangor), Diane Kelly (Professor, Swansea)

BEACON was recognised for its contributions to sustainable growth in West Wales and the Valleys through their research partnerships dedicated to developing industrial products from plants to reduce reliance on fossil based resources such as coal and gas.Beating off competition from projects across the EU including, Ecoponto em casa from Portugal, ORGANEXT from Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands and ARBOR which has partners from the UK, Ireland, Germany, Luxembourg, Netherlands and Belgium.

BEACON has worked with over 180 SME’s to date including 20 research and development (R&D) collaborations, resulting in 36 new jobs created, €4.3 investment induced and 7 products, processes or services registered.

The Award

The RegioStars Awards have been organised by the European Commission since 2008 with the objective of identifying good practices in regional development and highlight original and innovative projects which could be attractive and inspiring to other regions. The RegioStars Awards Jury singled out 19 finalists from 80 projects supported by European Union Cohesion Policy funds on the basis of four key criteria: innovation, impact, sustainability and partnership.

The finalists came from regions and cities in 17 Member States: Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy,Ireland, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.


"We are delighted to have won the RegioStars Award. This is international recognition of the importance of the innovative work being done by BEACON. BEACON is driven by the challenging targets for the adoption of  green technologies and reductions in greenhouse gas emission that have been set by national governments and the European Union."
"Low carbon technologies including biorefining and industrial biotechnology are seen as important growth sectors and will need sustainable supply chains that will generate economic activity and jobs, and it is these that provide the focusfor the work being done at BEACON."

Professor Iain Donnison, Director of BEACON

“EU funds supporting growth in green economy” says Finance Minister

“EU Funds are helping to support the low carbon economy and driving sustainable development,” Finance Minister Jane Hutt said today as she met businesses pioneering new ‘green’ products and services as part of an EU-backed project.

At a business breakfast held during UK Climate Week [3-9 March] and BioWales 2014, the £20m EU-backed BEACON project has been highlighting the work of companies and Universities in helping to establish Wales as a Biorefining Centre of Excellence. The aim is to reduce reliance on fossil fuels by developing new, sustainable products and services from plants using a process known as biorefining.
During the breakfast meeting the Minister launched a publication, ‘Progress through Partnership’, which highlights some of the innovative collaborations underway including, developing mushroom extract as a food supplement, using the properties from daffodils to treat Alzheimer’s and the identification of plant sugars for use in healthy living products.

Finance Minister Jane Hutt said: “Sustainable development is at the heart of Welsh Government. This is another example of how Wales benefits from vital EU funds which are helping to drive innovation in the low carbon economy, creating opportunities for sustainable growth and jobs in our region, and making a significant contribution to combating climate change.”

During the event, delegates also heard from Jonathan Hughes of Pennotec who has been involved in one such cutting-edge collaboration, fermenting grass sugars – a biorefining process - to help extract valuable components from waste crab shells that would usually go to landfill. These high value components can then be used for industrial and medical products.

Jonathan said: “Using grass-based biorefining process, we can provide a sustainable alternative to the traditional chemical extraction processes currently used abroad. It also opens up the possibility of establishing smaller, multi-product biorefineries in rural communities all around the UK and beyond.

“Our collaboration with BEACON is enabling us to successfully explore biorefining and attract finance and commercial interest to further develop this technology.”

BEACON Deputy Director Rob Elias said:  “The BEACON Project is an excellent example of how companies can tap into the research and innovation expertise through Aberystwyth, Bangor and Swansea Universities.  We can offer a service to help develop their products and fast track their technologies. Working with BEACON brings real advantages to companies developing green technologies in Wales.”

Other speakers at the breakfast event held in Cardiff Bay were Sir Roger Jones (Pro-Chancellor and Chair of Swansea University Council) and Kevin Stephens, Director of Agroceutical Products.



Finance Minister, Jane Hutt, with Jonathan Hughes of Pennotec and Kevin Stephens, Director of Agroceutical Products

"Cronfeydd yr UE yn cefnogi twf yr economi werdd" - Y Gweinidog Cyllid

“Mae Cronfeydd yr UE yn help i gefnogi’r economi rhad-ar-garbon ac yn gyrru datblygu cynaliadwy yn ei flaen.” Dyna ddywedodd Jane Hutt, y Gweinidog Cyllid heddiw, wrth iddi gyfarfod â busnesau sy’n torri cwys newydd mewn cynnyrch a gwasanaethau ‘gwyrdd’, fel rhan o brosiect sy’n cael cefnogaeth yr UE.

Mewn brecwast busnes a gynhaliwyd fel rhan o Wythnos Hinsawdd y DU [3-9 Mawrth] a BioCymru 2014, mae’r prosiect BEACON, prosiect sydd wedi cael  £20m gan yr UE, yn tynnu sylw at waith cwmnïau a Phrifysgolion wrth iddynt sefydlu Cymru fel Canolfan Rhagoriaeth Bioburo. Y bwriad yw lleihau ein dibyniaeth ar danwyddau ffosil trwy ddatblygu cynnyrch a gwasanaethau newydd o blanhigion. Proses a elwir yn bioburo yw hon.

Yn ystod y cyfarfod brecwast, fe lansiodd y Gweinidog gyhoeddiad, ‘Cynnydd drwy Bartneriaeth’. Mae hwn yn tynnu sylw at waith arloesol sy’n cael ei wneud ar y cyd ar hyn o bryd, gan gynnwys rhin madarch fel ychwanegyn bwyd, defnyddio rhinweddau Cennin Pedr i drin  clefyd Alzheimer ac adnabod siwgr planhigion i’w defnyddio mewn cynnyrch byw’n iach.

Dywedodd y Gweinidog Cyllid, Jane Hutt: “Mae datblygu cynaliadwy yn greiddiol i Lywodraeth Cymru. Dyma enghraifft arall o sut y mae Cymru’n gweld budd o arian hanfodol yr UE, sy’n help i ysgogi arloesi yn yr economi rhad-ar-garbon, gan greu cyfleoedd am dwf cynaliadwy yn ein rhanbarth heb sôn am wneud cyfraniad sylweddol yn y frwydr i atal newid yn yr hinsawdd.”

Yn ystod y digwyddiad, bu cynrychiolwyr yn clywed gan Jonathan Hughes o Pennotec sydd wedi bod yn cydweithio ar brosiect arloesol o’r math yma, eplesu siwgr gwair – proses bioburo – sy’n helpu i dynnu elfennau gwerthfawr o gregyn crancod wast, a fyddai fel arall yn mynd i’r safle tirlenwi. Mae’r elfennau gwerthfawr hyn yn gallu cael eu defnyddio mewn cynnyrch diwydiannol a meddygol.

Dywedodd Jonathan: “Mae defnyddio proses bioburo gwair yn rhoi opsiwn cynaliadwy i ni yn hytrach na’r prosesau o echdynnu cemegau a ddefnyddir dramor ar hyn o bryd. Mae hefyd yn rhoi’r opsiwn o agor canolfannau bioburo amlgynnyrch bychain mewn cymunedau cefn gwlad ledled y DU a thu hwnt.

“Mae cydweithio â BEACON yn ein galluogi i archwilio’r maes bioburo yn llwyddiannus, gan ddenu cyllid a diddordeb masnachol er mwyn datblygu rhagor o dechnoleg.”

Dywedodd Rob Elias, Dirprwy Gyfarwyddwr BEACON:  “Mae prosiect BEACON yn enghraifft wych o sut y mae cwmnïau yn gallu defnyddio arbenigedd ymchwil ac arloesi trwy Brifysgolion Bangor, Aberystwyth ac Abertawe. Gallwn gynnig gwasanaeth iddynt ddatblygu’u cynnyrch a rhoi eu technoleg ar y trywydd cyflym. Mae gweithio â BEACON yn dod a gwir fanteision i gwmnïau sy’n datblygu technoleg werdd yng Nghymru.”

Hefyd, roedd Syr Roger Jones (Dirprwy Ganghellor a Chadeirydd Cyngor Prifysgol Abertawe) a Kevin Stephens, Cyfarwyddwr Agroceutical Products yn siarad yn y brecwast a gynhaliwyd ym Mae Caerdydd.

Sreenivas and David visit India

Sreenivas Ravella and David Bryant recently visited India and have been "spreading the word" about BEACON.  They gave a talk as chief guests at the National Diary  Research Institute (NDRI) in Karnal and visited their 'Climate Resilient and Livestock Research Centre'.  Dave Braynt gave a talk at University of Jammu and Sreenivas visited the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad.  He also visited Dr Puniya at NDRI.


Sreenivas Ravella takes part in NDRI National Science Day 2014

Please click on link below for more information:

NREL Release a new Land Use Model

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in the USA has released a new land use change model, BioLUC, aimed at modelling the effects of bio-feedstock production scenarios on global land use change. The model is released through the Github platform allowing open access to the wider research community and is anticipated to play a key role in driving forward our understanding of this area. BEACON life cycle analysts Campbell Skinner and Trisha Toop visited NREL last summer and worked alongside the development team as they went through final testing stages of the project.

“Wood isn’t good – it’s brilliant!”

BEACON recently hosted a Green Building Materials Seminar for the Welsh Construction industry. 

Over 50 delegates attended the seminar at Bangor University which focussed on helping Welsh businesses to work with and produce innovative and energy-efficient building materials.

We all need to extract more value from our natural resources and nowhere is this need more relevant than the resource-intensive construction industry.  Being able to use products and materials more efficiently will not only help our planet but our bank balances as well.

The free seminar was arranged in order to showcase the leading examples of the how companies are using sustainable Welsh resources in construction and to further discussion into new ideas for plant based products.  It was hosted by BEACON and the Alliance for Sustainable Building Products which is an organisation dedicated to the identification and use of more sustainable construction products. 

Presentations at the half day seminar were given by academic and business and included a presentation by Welsh company, Coed Cymru, on building with low density soft wood which is easy fast and sustainable to grow. Natural Resources Wales gave the audience information on how good construction will be saving energy in the future and help to reduce our carbon footprint in the years ahead. NBT (Natural Building Technologies) described how they are working with sustainable products and construction techniques and the benefits that are already being seen from using this technology. 

Adam Charlton, Beacon’s Project Manager, based at Bangor University, who organised the event said: :

“I am really pleased that so many local Welsh businesses attended the seminar. The presentations were all very well received and have sparked future collaborations. We are delighted with the interest and enthusiasm we have received following this event and look forward to arranging more sector specific events in the near future.

BEACON yn cynnal Seminar ar Ddeunyddiau Adeiladu Gwyrdd i’r diwydiant adeiladu yng Nghymru.

Yn ddiweddar daeth dros 50 o gynadleddwyr i seminar ym Mhrifysgol Bangor a oedd yn canolbwyntio ar helpu busnesau Cymreig i weithio gyda deunyddiau adeiladu arloesol sy'n arbed ynni, a'u cynhyrchu hefyd.

Mae angen i ni gael mwy o werth o'n hadnoddau naturiol ac mae'r angen hwn yn arbennig o berthnasol yn y diwydiant adeiladu sydd mor drwm ar adnoddau.   Bydd gallu defnyddio nwyddau a deunyddiau'n fwy effeithlon yn helpu ein balansau banc yn ogystal â'n planed.

Trefnwyd y seminar am ddim hon er mwyn tynnu sylw at rai o'r prif enghreifftiau sut mae cwmnïau’n defnyddio adnoddau Cymreig cynaliadwy wrth adeiladu ac i hyrwyddo trafodaeth ar syniadau newydd am gynhyrchion yn deillio o blanhigion.  Fe'i cynhaliwyd gan BEACON a'r Gynghrair dros Gynhyrchion Adeiladu Cynaliadwy.  Mae'r Gynghrair dros Gynhyrchion Adeiladu Cynaliadwy yn sefydliad sy'n ymroi i ddarganfod cynhyrchion adeiladu mwy cynaliadwy a'u defnyddio.  

Cafwyd cyflwyniadau yn y seminar hanner diwrnod gan rai o'r byd academaidd a busnes, yn cynnwys cyflwyniad gan gwmni Cymreig, Coed Cymru, ar adeiladu gyda phren meddal sy'n hawdd, yn gyflym ac yn gynaliadwy i'w dyfu.  Rhoddodd Adnoddau Naturiol Cymru wybodaeth i'r gynulleidfa ar sut y bydd adeiladu da yn arbed ynni yn y dyfodol a helpu i leihau ein hôl troed carbon yn ystod y blynyddoedd i ddod.  Fe wnaeth NBT (Natural Building Technologies) ddisgrifio sut maent yn gweithio gyda chynhyrchion a dulliau adeiladu cynaliadwy a'r manteision sydd eisoes i'w gweld o ddefnyddio'r dechnoleg hon.  

Meddai Adam Charlton o Brifysgol Bangor, Rheolwr Project Beacon, a drefnodd y digwyddiad:   

"Dwi'n hynod falch bod cymaint o fusnesau Cymreig lleol wedi dod i'r seminar.  Cafodd y cyflwyniadau i gyd dderbyniad da ac maent wedi ysgogi cynlluniau pellach i gydweithio yn y dyfodol.  Rydym yn hynod falch o'r diddordeb a'r brwdfrydedd a ddangoswyd yn dilyn y digwyddiad hwn ac rydym yn edrych ymlaen at drefnu mwy o ddigwyddiadau penodol i'r sector yn y dyfodol agos.

Life cycle analysis and process optimisation seminar

Preparations are underway for the life cycle analysis and process optimisation seminar being held in Aberystwyth University on 3rd December. Guest speakers include James Nash, Biomass and Renewables Manager from Spencer Environmental Care Associates and Ken Toop Business Partner for SEMTA. This free seminar is an excellent opportunity to find out what life cycle analysis and techno-economic analysis are and what they can do for your company. The seminar is free, but places are limited. Please look at our Events section for further information and details of how to register early and avoid disappointment.

Biofuels and Lipid Coproduction in a Biorefinery Approach

BEACON presentation at 11th European Federation on Science and Technology of Lipids, Antalya, Turkey.
In a session dedicated to microbial lipids at Euro Fed Lipids 27th-30th October, 2013, Professor Steven Kelly gave a presentation on Biofuels and Lipid Coproduction in a Biorefinery Approach.

Click for more information

Bangor University research into growing use of Ivy

Daily Post article:

The many uses of abundant but overlooked plants – from killing slugs to treating athlete’s foot – are being investigated by scientists at Bangor University.

Full article:

LCRI Conference

BEACON business development manager Selwyn Own and life cycle analyst Trisha Toop, attended the Low Carbon Research Institute conference in Llandudno on 5th and 6th November to present current progress and projects undertaken by BEACON. They were accompanied by Sarah Watson-Jones who presented on the LCEE project also run by Aberystwyth University. All presented in the bioenergy session of the conference which was well attended and gained positive feedback from the audience. There was also much interest in the Bioenergy stand which hosted information on the BEACON and LCEE projects.

Western Mail article

Helping hand for HE in Brussels finds funding for research needed to drive Wales forward.

Click for article

Plaid Cymru Leader visits BEACON

Leanne Wood AM, Leader of  Plaid Cymru, visited IBERS in advance of her party’s annual conference in Aberystwyth.  Ms Wood had a conducted tour of the National Plant Phenomic Centre and Genomics Laboratory prior to visiting the BEACON pilot plant facility where she met BEACON Director Iain Donnison, Business Development Manager Mike Morris and saw how BEACON is undertaking innovative interactions with businesses to improve economic outcomes.


BEACON PhD students win IBERS-all PhD competition

Laura Lyons and Magda Dudek, BEACON PhD students, have won an IBERS-all poster presentation competition.

Laura has just started her third year of study in Microbiology.  Poster title:  Bioprospecting for Microorganisms and Enzymes with Biorefining Potential.

Laura’s poster discussed how she isolated bacteria from Miscanthus chip and characterised them using 16S rRNA sequencing, Gram staining and morphology.  She isolated an alpha-amylase (starch degrading enzyme) from a Bacillus coagulans strain, which she expressed in E. coli, purified (to a certain extent) and shown that it is still active.  She also completed a range of functional assays, using Xylan (hemicellulose component), CMC (cellulose component) and starch as the sole carbon source in large agar plates, onto which the bugs were inoculated, in duplicate.  These plates cover in total 148 (19 of which are mixed) isolates on: 3 carbon sources, 5 different temperatures (room temperature, 40 C, 50 C, 60 C, 70 C) and 4 pHs (ranging from pH4 to pH11).  From the activity ascertained from these assays she was able to choose a number of bugs to whole genome sequence (if they had activity over a range of plates) and also isolated proteins from bugs that were excellent on one carbon source.  From the genome sequences, fosmid libraries can be constructed if the genome of that particular bug has not been previously sequenced and published, to gain sequences of the enzymes used in xylan, cellulose and starch utilisation.”

Laura’s supervisors are Kerrie Farrar, Justin Pachebat and Iain Donnison.  Laura said she found the presentations useful as quite a few people were interested in her work and it helped her with confidence and simplification.

To see Laura's poster please click on the link below:

Laura's Poster

Magda is also starting her third year working in the area of Microbiology.  Poster title:  Microbes and enzymes for macroalgae and plant biorefining.

The poster summarized Magda’s research in which she is aiming to unlock the potential of macroalgae using specific microbial enzymes which are able to break down macroalgae complex sugars and convert them to valuable platform chemicals. She believes that microbes from yet not investigated intestines of a marine limpet – key macroalgae grazer as well as microbiota derived from North Ronaldsay Sheep feaces will deliver novel biocatalysts for seaweed and plant biorefinery processes.

Magda’s supervisors are Joe Gallagher and Jessica Adams.

To see Magda's poster please click on the link below:




New drug discovery

Swansea University scientists in BEACON working with the University of California Santa Cruz and the National Institutes of Health (USA) Chemical Genomics Centre have developed a dual action chemical that is antifungal and combats inflammation in a single molecule.  This drug discovery research is being developed and the initial publication is below.  For further information contact Prof Steven Kelly ( ).

Discovery of a novel dual fungal CYP51/human 5-lipoxygenase inhibitor: implications for anti-fungal therapy. 

Hoobler EK, Rai G, Warrilow AG, Perry SC, Smyrniotis CJ, Jadhav A, Simeonov A, Parker JE, Kelly DE, Maloney DJ, Kelly SL, Holman TR.
PLoS One. 2013 Jun 24;8(6):e65928. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0065928.

Pulp Moulding Equipment

One final equipment update. BioComposites will also be taking delivery of their new pulp moulding equipment in September, purchased through the A4B funded STARS project.

It will be used to convert plant fibres into a range of pulp moulded products, including soft fruit and vegetable packaging. The equipment is based on a thermoforming (in –mould) process and is capable of producing 300 units per hour

In addition BioComposites have purchased some additional pre-processing equipment including knife and roller mills and also have a 35 litre capacity ribbon blender.


Wet Fractionation Line

The BioComposites Centre at Bangor University is about to take delivery of the final major piece of equipment purchased for the BEACON project.

Below are a couple of initial shots so you can see what the equipment looks like. BioComposites used to have a 10,000 litre capacity wet fractionation line in their old facility, so this is an extension of equipment they had previously, although on a smaller scale

The capacity is 300 litres and the process involves the use of enzymes in an aqueous medium to process and separate biomass into a range of fractions including polysaccharides (e.g. beta glucans) and soluble/ insoluble fibres. The process does not use chemicals or solvents and so is an example of another ‘green process’. It is however, not a fermentation process. The technology was developed initially to produce materials for the food industry from oats and bran, but the line will hopefully be used for a wide range of feedstocks including seaweeds, food waste and forestry residues.


BEACON Shortlisted for Major European Award

The BEACON Biorefining Centre of Excellence, an innovative research centre dedicated to developing industrial products from plants to reduce reliance on fossil-based resources such as coal and gas, has been shortlisted for the European Commission’s RegioStarts Awards 2014.

Led by Aberystwyth University’s Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS), BEACON is a collaboration between three universities; Aberystwyth, Bangor (where the work is led by the Biocomposites Centre) and Swansea.

Researchers at BEACON work with industry, including small and medium sized enterprises, to develop renewable materials, fuels and chemicals as well as modified and new processes which are more sustainable from an environmental and economic perspective.

It is one of 4 projects to be shortlisted in the “Sustainable growth: Green growth and jobs through Bio-economy” category.

The other three are Ecoponto em casa from Portugal, ORGANEXT from Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands and ARBOR which has partners from the UK, Ireland, Germany, Luxembourg, Netherlands and Belgium.

The RegioStars Awards recognise Europe's most inspirational and innovative regional projects.

Based on four key criteria - innovation, impact, sustainability and partnership – BEACON is one of 19 finalists have been selected for the 2014 awards from 80 projects supported by European Union Cohesion Funds.

Seventeen member states are represented by the finalists: Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Ireland, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

The finalists will showcase their work on 8 October during the 11th annual European Week of Regions and Cities, and the winners will be announced at an awards ceremony in Brussels on 31 March 2014.

Professor Iain Donnison from IBERS at Aberystwyth University and Director of BEACON said: “This is excellent news and is international recognition of the importance of the innovative work being done by BEACON.

“The concept behind BEACON has been driven by the challenging targets for renewable energy adoption and reductions in greenhouse gas emission, set by the European Union and by the two global challenges facing humankind – energy security and climate change.”

“Low carbon technologies including biorefining and industrial biotechnology are seen as important growth sectors and will need sustainable supply chains to generate economic activity and jobs in rural communities as well as in towns and cities, and it is these that provide the focus for the work being done at BEACON,” he added.

BEACON is funded through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) by the Welsh European Funding Office (WEFO), part of the Welsh Government, under the Convergence programme for West Wales and the Valleys.

The full list of finalists and further information about RegioStars Awards is available online at

Busy, Busy!

August usually brings a quiet spell, a chance to catch up, within academic institutions. Not so this month – not yet anyway. The BEACON Life Cycle Analysts have returned from a fruitful visit to NREL in Colorado where they worked closely with the sustainability and modeling researchers there to help develop a variety of collaborative projects. This work has been made possible through a £30,000 BBSRC Partnership. From this globetrotting, apparently unhindered by jetlag, Trish went swiftly (and successfully) through her PhD viva examination. The most exciting news of the month has been that BEACON is a finalist for the RegioStars 2014 awards, in Category 2 – Sustainable growth: Green growth and jobs through bio-economy. The partners will be going to Brussels early in October for judging. With the pilot facility now fully commissioned much collaborative work is underway. This, combined with slotting in annual leave, has made for a fairly hectic schedule. The facility will be undergoing a Dangerous Substances & Explosive Atmosphere Regulations (DSEAR) inspection at the end of this month and much preparation is also geared towards this. Depending on the prevailing weather conditions, and other elements beyond our control, the final harvest is expected either during September or early October. This will be followed by a welcome period of consolidation. A lot has been learned through these processes, with improvements to the system and its workings on each occasion. Meanwhile, the proximity of a new academic year brings a wealth of superb conference opportunities. Many of the team are scheduled to speak at or attend academic and networking activities throughout the UK, and across Europe and beyond, come the early autumn.


In the last couple of weeks the BEACON team has said farewell to Dr Steve Fish. Steve has joined Lancaster University as the new Head of Business Partnerships and Enterprise for the School of Computing and Communications.

All the BEACON team wish him good luck for the future and look forward to his continued involvement with BEACON via the Advisory Board.

Bangor University Research and Enterprise Impact Awards 2013

Bangor University Research and Enterprise Impact Awards were held on 11 July 2013. 

This occasion provides a showcase for the positive impact that the University can have on the economy and the social wellbeing of Wales - to highlight the University’s work and celebrate the successes. In this inaugural competition the panel deliberated on over 20 applications.

Congratulations to Adam Charlton and his team at the BioComposites Centre – runner up in the section for Best Improvement in Business Performance and /or Outstanding Innovation with their submission
‘Sustainable development and commercialisation of new chemicals for industry at the BioComposites Centre: From intermediates for drug synthesis to plant derived chemicals for the biobased economy’ against very strong competition.

To see more please click on the link below:

I weld mwy, cliciwch ar y ddolen isod:

Royal Welsh Show 2013

Minister Baroness Jenny Randerson, Wales Office, Westminster, visited the IBERS stand at the Royal Welsh Show and is seen in the photo below with Dr Joe Gallagher and Professor Wynne Jones.