Recycled green bottles provide the feedstock for Dryden’s AFM filter medium
Copyright: Rex Features
Companies from sectors including agrochemicals, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology and biopolymers showcase their latest developments and investments
Dryden Aqua is a Scotland-based, marine biological company specialising in water quality and innovative treatment technology for a variety of applications, including drinking water, waste-water, aquaculture and swimming pools.
The company’s main product, AFM, is a filter medium that can be used to replace sand in water filters in many industries. AFM is made by recycling green container glass. “We turn it not just into a sand substitute but into a filter medium that works a great deal better than sand,” says Howard Dryden, chairman and founder, Dryden Aqua.
Recent tests by the Institut de la Filtration et des Techniques Séparatives (IFTS), the leading international test centre for water filtration technology, showed that AFM performs over 10% better than sand, and that sand outperforms all other glass filtration brands by a large margin. AFM also removes 10 times more of the small particles from water and can filter down to 1 micron. It can also remove parasites and bacteria and the molecules of some of the priority substances such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and heavy metals such as arsenic and chromium by adsorption.
“Our current focus is looking at drinking water in Europe, India, Africa and China,” says Dryden. Sand filters cannot remove the parasites that cause infections. “What we can do with AFM is remove these organisms using very simple sandbased technology,” he says.
Under the European Commission’s Seventh Framework Programme, Dryden is working with a European consortium and the Indian government to solve the problem of arsenic in drinking water in India.
Currently 90% of AFM is exported to Europe, the Middle East and Asia with a large market in swimming pool filters. “We have over 100,000 swimming pools running on our product around Europe, mainly in Germany, Switzerland and Austria. For example, in Switzerland we have 80% of all pools in the country. The reason is that there are very strict standards in these countries and we provide them with the tools to comply more easily than they can using sand or other technologies,”
A manufacturing facility in Scotland opened early in 2015. The plant can recycle the equivalent of 25% of all the green glass bottles currently available in Scotland – some 40,000 tonnes/year. A second facility is being planned that could use all the green container glass in Scotland.
Synpromics and Dow AgroSciences, a wholly owned subsidiary of Dow Chemical, are working on a collaborative, initial proof-of-concept project to demonstrate the application of Synpromics’ promoter technology in certain crops.
The project is the first example of a new collaborative process that Scottish Enterprise has developed with Dow. “We worked with Dow’s corporate venture arm to find out what the company’s priorities for the future are”, says Caroline Strain, head of chemical sciences at Scottish Enterprise. “We accessed all our networks to see if there might be some interesting business for Dow to consider.”
Dow then invited companies it was interested in to a one-to-one session to showcase their potential. Following this, Dow went on to have further discussions with some of the companies and was put in touch with the Scottish Investment Bank.
The collaboration with Synpromics is the first to come out of this process. “In the end Dow, Scottish Enterprise and the Scottish Investment Bank all put funds into the company,” says Strain.
“Being able to attract the interest of one of the top agbio companies at this early stage of our development is a tremendous achievement,” says David Lawrence, Synpromics’ chairman.
There are two or three other collaborations with Dow that are still under discussion and the approach is also being used with other companies, such as BASF, INEOS, Syngenta and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), says Strain.
With Scotland’s notable legacy for research, development and manufacturing, CelluComp has chosen to locate its plant in Fife. Dedicated to scaling up commercial production of Curran®, the plant–which opened in March 2015 – is the first of its kind in Europe.
Collaborating with local agriculture, CelluComp has devised a solution to the problem of unused vegetable by-product, creating a sustainable material with a variety of applications. Curran®, the company’s revolutionary cellulose based product, uses by-product that would be otherwise discarded by farms, and finds new life in household items such as paint.
Providing a more environmentally conscious solution for consumers, Curran® has positive outcomes for both the food and chemicals industries, enhancing both its end products and the green credentials of everyday household chemical products.
This news supports Scotland’s National Plan for Industrial Biotechnology – which seeks to establish Scotland as a global leader in industrial biotechnology (IB) and biorefining.
The sector is already worth an estimated £200m to the Scottish economy, but there is increased scope to build on existing expertise to support the competitiveness and sustainability of many industries.
‘Scotland’s vision for industrial biotechnology and biorefining in particular, is in line with CelluComp’s objectives’, said Christian Kemp-Griffin, CEO of CelluComp.
By recognising the significant potential presented by the production of bio-based products, CelluComp’s vision could help various industries realise major economic benefits – particularly forestry, timber and agriculture.
‘Our hope is that consumers will soon make the conscious decision to choose paints and coatings that have the Curran® seal, knowing that it is the more environmentally and carbon efficient option’, says Christian.
Whilst strengthening the products in which the Curran® technology is applied, CelluComp is also helping to contribute to sustainable manufacturing processes.
Using by-products from the food industry, CelluComp ensures that the business does not compete with food crops for scarce lands. In comparison with existing materials used as rheology additives, Curran® has a low carbon footprint, uses fewer fossil fuel based chemicals and is emission free.
Scotland’s natural resources, supportive IB and chemical sciences communities, together with strong government support mark it out as a potential world leader in the industry.
Commenting on the growth opportunities presented by operating in Scotland, Christian says, ‘With the natural resources we have in Scotland, coupled with the commitment made by the Scottish Government to support the growth of the industry, particularly around innovation, R&D, knowledge transfer and funding, Scotland is on the cusp of a real step change.
‘The applicability of the Curran® technology has already garnered interest in growing production in foreign markets. Opening our new facility and scaling up the manufacturing levels of Curran® in Scotland positions us to be part of the country’s success.’
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Global healthcare company GSK is investing in the expansion of its two manufacturing sites in Scotland, at Montrose and Irvine.
Two projects at the Montrose plant will enable GSK to produce the ingredients for four new pharmaceutical products. Work on the vaccines plant is halfway through the construction phase and the facility is expected to be operational in the second quarter of next year.
A facility to manufacture new products recently brought to market will be operational by mid-2016. The total cost of the two projects will be £60m ($100m). This is the first time that the UK will participate in GSK’s vaccine manufacturing supply chain.
At Irvine, production capacity is being expanded at a cost of £75m. The project involves expanding all aspects of the site with 250-300 contractors working on the plant before it becomes fully operational in the second half of 2016.
GSK is also investing some £30m-40m in sustainable energy production. For example, two wind turbines and a £10m biogas plant are in operation at Irvine, while a biomass plant is under consideration.
Scottish Enterprise is supporting the work by providing funding of £1.5m to back the £2.7m that Angus Council has committed to improving access to the GSK Montrose site.
Talking about the decisions to expand in Scotland, Dave Tudor, vice president, primary supply chain at GSK, says: “I’m very passionate about trying to bring some of this high-value manufacturing back in to Scotland. It’s a very attractive place to manufacture.”
The government’s “patent box” is a major part of this attraction. This encourages investment in R&D in the UK.
Marine Biopolymers (MBL) was formed at the end of 2009 to focus on extracting high-value components from brown seaweeds for use in a range of applications, primarily in food and pharmaceuticals, but also in industrial areas such as textiles.
The company’s starting point is alginate – typically the largest single component in brown seaweeds and a well-established, versatile and safe natural polymer.
MBL has developed a new patented process to extract alginate which is faster, cheaper and quicker, says Douglas Macinnes, a founding director of MBL. “We want to reintroduce alginate manufacturing to Scotland on a commercial scale,” he says.
After initially proving the process at the University of Strathclyde, MBL built a pilot-scale facility with funding awarded in 2012 from the UK government’s innovation agency, the Technology Strategy Board, under the SMART R&D prototype category. This facility has been running since 2013 and MBL is now ready to start on a full-scale plant that will be built in Argyll.
The company is currently finalising the funding for the plant and hopes it will be operating in 2015. At full capacity, this facility will be able to produce around 1,000 tonnes/year.
“We are trying to target the higher-value markets for alginate, such as food and pharmaceuticals,” adds David Mackie, the other founding director of the company. These markets, particularly pharmaceuticals, value the gelling properties of alginate.
“There’s a shortage of gelling-type alginates. We have access to seaweed that gives us gelling options in our alginate. The seaweed isn’t unique to Scotland, but Scotland has an abundance of that species,” says Mackie. “That’s a plus point for us,” he says.
MBL aims to offer a range of alginate grades and is developing its product range. It has test samples available and has been working with potential customers.
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