Supported by a commitment of £26 million over the next 5 years, including £12.5M funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Centre and Innovate UK, with additional support from universities and industry, the National Biofilms Innovation Centre (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.

Dr. Thomas Vance is leading the research contribution from the PML Applications, Centre for Marine Biofouling and Corrosion. He says, “Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, biofilm fouling on vessel hulls can negatively impact the efficiency of the vessel. One of the key issues to understand is how biofilms vary spatially on different areas of a vessel, and how these variations change with time. By understanding these patterns, we should be able to use the most effective biofilm control approaches for different areas. Our particular expertise will also be used to test prototype marine biofilm control technologies being developed by other partners in the consortium.  This will include laboratory-based molecular and single-cell genomic techniques as well as in-situ testing in a range of marine settings with high quality environmental characterisation, using buoys, commercial vessels, dynamic test rigs and our own research vessel."

NBIC is a multi-site Innovation and Knowledge Centre led by the University of Southampton together with a core partnership of the Universities of Edinburgh, Liverpool and Nottingham. Eleven additional universities, three research centres – Diamond Synchrotron, the Hartree Centre and the Quadram Institute – and three major global academic partners –  The  Nanyang Technologial 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.

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, forecast to cause 10M deaths by 2050.
  • They are the major cause of chronic infections.
  • 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.