he objective of the Algal Bioenergy Special Interest Group (ABSIG) is to facilitate the development of a robust and sustainable algal industry in the UK while raising awareness of the important role algae play in the provision of ecosystem services. Ecosystems services are the benefits that humans obtain from ecosystems (for more information see the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and UK National Ecosystem Assessment). Functions relating to algae include: supporting (eg primary production, nutrient cycling); provisioning (eg food, fuel, nutraceuticals, and pigments); and regulating (eg bioremediation and sequestering pollutants).
Algal derived biofuels and bioenergy remains a nascent technology in the UK (see AUK Roadmap for Algal Technologies) and The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) supports the translation of such technologies into industry to facilitate the innovation pipeline to commercialization.
Key gaps in knowledge include the biochemistry, processing, growth conditions and identifying strains/species best suited for the production of fuel or energy. To address those gaps, NERC and Innovate UK have announced the SPARK Plus Award, and will invest £50,000 in early stage R&D projects aimed at encouraging collaborations between the research community and industry.
The objective of the SPARK Plus Award is to enable small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) to collaborate with an academic partner on an early stage R&D project. The £10,000 award will be paid to the research organization when the work is finished. The SME must contribute at least £5,000 to the project costs; the cost of the project should be a minimum of £15,000 and this contribution can be in kind or in staff time.
Projects must focus on early stage R&D of macro or micro algal derived fuels or energy for commercial applications, and can include biotechnology and/or non-biotech or synergistic technologies, so long as the technology improves efficiencies.