BioFutures Programme

What is the BioFutures Programme?

In December 2015, The Chemical Engineer published an article entitled Pick a Mix, by Ian Shott, Nigel Titchener-Hooker and Jonathan Seville. The article called for action to boost the skills diversity of chemical engineering graduates to prepare them for the greater diversity of roles requiring chemical engineers.

One sector where the skills of chemical engineers are and will be required to ensure its success is the rapidly-developing bioeconomy and biosector. The bioeconomy involves use of non-oil and gas resources and the application of industrial biotechnology (IB) to manufacture products, from bioplastics to genomic medicines. IB can increase productivity and efficiency of current processes (including those that utilise finite resources). Equally it is applied in the development of new processes that utilise more sustainable resources. Both these approaches provide the opportunity to move towards a more sustainable future and delivery of a circular economy.

IChemE has already recognised the important role that chemical engineers play in this sector. The Biochemical Engineering Special Interest Group (BESIG) is one of the largest SIGs in IChemE, and other SIGs are closely related to the biosector (Food & Drink, Pharma). But it’s clear IChemE needs to do more and the BioFutures Programme was officially launched in 2017.

The structure

The BioFutures Programme includes the BioFutures Steering Group, chaired by Ian Shott CBE (Arcinova, UK), and consists of volunteers drawn from the diversity of the biosector and IChemE's membership. The Steering Group provides direction to the programme of projects and activities.

For information or to become involved, please contact: chemengmatters@icheme.org.

The BioFutures Steering Group identified four key areas for IChemE to address and established four working groups:

Skills Working Group

Chair – Roger Kilburn, IBioIC, UK

The Skills Working Group has been tasked with the main aim of ensuring that IChemE provides professional support and accreditation for engineers that are developing, designing and operating bioprocesses. The working group aims to:

  • Systematically map the process engineering skills required in the bio-sector and confirm whether the anecdotal evidence of shortfalls is correct.
  • Review IChemE’s accreditation and Chartership requirements to ensure bio-skills and courses are adequately supported.
  • Develop case studies for industry to raise awareness of how chemical engineering skills can benefit the bio-sector.

Careers Working Group

Chair - James Winterburn, University of Manchester, UK

The main objective of the Careers Working Group is to ensure that IChemE illustrates the diverse range of careers available to engineers wishing to enter the bio-sector. This will raise awareness of industry to the skills engineers could bring to their organisation. The working group aims to:

  • Chart the career paths and roles currently open to chemical engineers working in the bio-industries.
  • Contact a representative sample of companies active in the bio-industries and establish the current status and future potential for employing chemical engineers.
  • Disseminate the information, both to prospective students and near graduates considering career options, and to companies who may be unaware of what skills a chemical engineer could bring to their operation.

SMEs Working Group

Co-Chairs – Paul Mines, Biome Technologies plc, UK and David Platts, PDV Consultants, New Zealand

The SMEs working group has been tasked with the main aim of evaluating how IChemE can better support and engage with SMEs and the chemical engineers who work within them. The working group aims to:

  • Establish the importance of SMEs to IChemE’s membership.
  • Make recommendations for how to better engage with and serve members in SMEs.

Policy Working Group

Chair - Max Kennedy, BioLighthouse Ltd, New Zealand

The Policy Working Group has been tasked with the main aim of evaluating how IChemE could contribute to the policy-making aspects surrounding the bio-sector. The working group will:

  • Engage IChemE members active in the bio-sector to identify the priority topics for the sector.
  • Develop a shortlist of potential policy topics, to be confirmed with the Steering Group.
  • Work on policy position statements or other activities that will enable IChemE to develop sound knowledge and opinion on these topics and disseminate these as appropriate.