BEACON Conference 2017

Thursday, 25th May 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.