Swansea University plays key role in National Biofilms Innovation Centre

The UK’s world-class expertise in the research of biofilms has been recognised through the launch of a new National Biofilms Innovation Centre (NBIC), with Swansea University becoming a key partner while the University’s Senior Pro Vice Chancellor Professor Hilary Lappin-Scott has been appointed Chair of the International Scientific advisory board.

Supported by a commitment of £26 million over the next 5 years, including £12.5M funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Centre (BBSRC) and Innovate UK, with additional support from universities and industry, NBIC will bring the best of UK biofilm research together with UK companies from across the industrial sectors to accelerate the adoption of new technologies into live products and services. 

NBIC is a multi-site Innovation and Knowledge Centre1, led by the University of Southampton together with a core partnership of the Universities of Edinburgh, Liverpool and Nottingham. Swansea University will contribute its unique expertise as an NBIC partner together with 10 more partner universities2, three research centres – Diamond Synchrotron, the Hartree Centre and the Quadram Institute – and three major global academic partners –  The Nanyang Technological University (Singapore), the Montana State University (USA) and the University of Copenhagen (Denmark). NBIC will also collaborate with a network of over 50 companies from different sectors ranging from SMEs to large companies to exploit the UK’s global leadership in biofilms. NBIC’s inclusive model means that other universities and companies conducting biofilm research can participate and benefit from partnership with the NBIC consortium.

“This new National Biofilms Innovation Centre is poised to create a fusion of world-class interdisciplinary research and industry partnerships to deliver breakthrough science and technologies to control and exploit biofilms,” said Jeremy Webb, Principal Investigator and Co-Director for NBIC. “The UK is home to some of the most advanced research and commercial opportunities for the exploitation of biofilms so combining our talents gives us the best opportunity to establish a national, and international, agenda to tackle some of the world’s biggest challenges and work seamlessly across academic and industry to stimulate growth in this vital area.”

Biofilm research at Swansea

 Senior Pro VC Professor Hilary Lappin-Scott

Biofilm research at Swansea University focuses strengths from 3 key groups; including Microbiology and Infectious Disease (SUMS) lead by Tom Humphrey and Tom Wilkinson, Aquaculture, led by Carlos Garcia De Leaniz (College of Science) and Biomaterials, Biofouling and Biofilms Engineering Laboratory (B3EL) group lead by Chris Wright, School of Engineering. The important role of Swansea University to the current NBIC, is reflected in the appointment of pro-vice chancellor Professor Hilary Lappin-Scott, as a world authority in Biofilms, to the Chair of the International Scientific advisory board.

Professor Lappin-Scott said: “I am honoured to chair the Scientific Advisory Board of NBIC, bringing together top researchers in the UK we will ensure fast translation of research breakthroughs into innovative technologies”.

Microbial biofilm research is now a feature of many scientific disciplines including biological sciences, medicine, chemistry, physics, computational modelling, engineering and ocean science. Biofilms are central to some of the most urgent global challenges across diverse fields of application, from medicine to industry to the environment and exert considerable economic and social impact:  

  • They are a leading cause of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), forecast to cost $100T in world GDP and 10M deaths by 2050;
  • They are the major cause of chronic infections, costing the NHS £2bn per annum; 
  • Contamination, energy losses and damage by biofilms impact on the £70B UK foods industry, the $2.8T consumer products sector, and $117B global coatings industry.
  • Biofilm management is essential to deliver clean and globally sustainable drinking water and food security.

Swansea University & the UK Industrial Strategy

Swansea University’s role with the NIBC is the latest example of how the university is working to build up world-class capacity that will help deliver on the UK Industrial Strategy (announced today 27th November). Other examples include:

  • The £31m Computational Foundry, RCUK Cherish Digital Economy Centre, the SAILS Health and Population Databank and High Performance Computing investments provide a unique portfolio of talent that can provide strong leadership of digital innovation across the four grand challenges. Swansea combines deep foundational understandings of data, security, trust and processes with human-centred design and development ensuring that Artificial Intelligence systems, Big Data, the Internet of Things, and autonomous systems are produced in a way that recognises the precious smallness of people and their everyday lives.
  • The University’s long-term commitment to clean growth is seen in the work of our Energy Safety Research Institute and the "Building as Power Stations" agenda in SPECIFIC. Recently the University was awarded a major UK Grand Challenges investment from RCUK to work on solar generation with leading institutions in the UK and India.
  • The University’s energy teams are also carrying out ground breaking work on smart electric vehicles; our computer scientists are working on safely optimising the flows of trains from rail networks and have explored the use of drones in emerging markets.
  • Swansea's Centre for Innovative Ageing has many years of experience, pioneering innovations to help people age with choice, control and empowerment. 
  • The University is distinct in its agile, interdisciplinary ways of working; it has invested heavily in people and infrastructure including a £500m Science and Innovation Campus; and, was founded in 1920 with industry, innovation and transformation at its core."