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Biofilms - friend or foe?

Posted on 17/05/2018

A newly published KTN report outlines the findings of a workshop focused on the prevention, detection, management and engineering of biofilms.

Biofilms are created by microbial communities for a range of reasons, with a fundamental focus on the survival, maintenance and growth of the members of the community themselves.

Biofilms are often seen as problems and are thus viewed negatively. However, their creation and maintenance can equally provide benefits such as the removal of pollutants, the potential production of pharmaceuticals and the production of biofuels on an industrial scale. In addition, biofilms on plant roots produced by micro organisms can help to preserve and unlock vital nutrients. And their role in the stabilisation of microbial communities is ecologically important.

Investigation into the manipulation, control and exploitation of biofilms has gained momentum and seen an increase in research activity and funding in the UK in the last 3 years. Although the cost of detrimental biofilm creation is estimated to be tens of billions annually, significant market opportunities have also been identified.

Biofilms on a boat stern hull and propeller

In February 2018, the Knowledge Transfer Network hosted an Innovate UK funded workshop, with the aim of engaging widely with industrial and research sectors to capture common industrial challenges and needs, helping to further shape the short-term and long-term strategy for industrial pre- and post-competitive research in biofilms. The workshop gave the National Biofilms Innovation Centre (NBIC) an opportunity to explain the work of the Centre to the industry attendees and the results of the workshop will also help them to increase their network in an industrially relevant way. A secondary output of the workshop was to provide a forum for ideas and information exchange and the development of nascent collaborations and projects.

The outputs of the workshop are being provided to Innovate UK and BBSRC to provide both industry and academic challenges to help inform their future funding scopes for this area as appropriate, as well as to the NBIC as further community evidence gathering on focus areas.

You can download the report from this workshop here.

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