As an academic working with global biotechnology company Biocatalysts Ltd, Dr Andrea Rayat underlines the value of sharing specialist UCL research with industry.
Dr Andrea Rayat
As an academic supervisor and co-investigator on the Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) between Biocatalysts Ltd and UCL, Andrea has had a unique opportunity to apply her bioprocessing research to help a company gain significant market advantage.
Andrea and her team have been supported by UCL Innovation & Enterprise, who helped with applying for funding, setting up the partnership and the administrative aspects.
Taking my research to the next stage
After studying my PhD at UCL, I came back here in 2014 as a Senior Enterprise Fellow working on research translation of our world-leading bioprocessing technologies.
The Ultra Scale-Down (USD) kompAs™ device we’ve developed here at UCL allows us to mimic the forces that enzymes are exposed to in large-scale operations, using just millilitres of materials. This has many benefits for companies producing enzymes for use in food, flavouring and pharmaceuticals, as it means they can test and evolve manufacturing development processes in a lab environment. This removes the need for expensive, large-scale testing, resulting in significant cost and waste reduction.
As part of the team that helped refine this technology for use outside academia, I saw the KTP with Biocatalysts as an ideal chance to take my research to the next stage.
Giving a business access to our specialist expertise
From an academic point of view, my role has been to support the company with integrating the new technology into their business. We’ve helped them with training, process design and prototype testing.
The technology isn’t yet widely used outside academia, so the company needed access to our specialist expertise to be able to fully exploit these advanced bioprocessing techniques into their business.
How the KTP transformed the business
Biocatalysts have used the KTP to cement their place as a world leading specialist enzyme development and manufacturing company. With our support, and the technology we’ve developed, they’ve been able to drastically streamline the way they work. This has led to significant increases in yields and manufacturing capacity, with the introduction of new cost-saving practices, and access to world-leading bioprocessing expertise.
The benefits of being involved in a KTP
From my perspective, the KTP has meant that I’ve been able to use my research in a very specific way to improve a company’s performance. Typically our academic work focuses on gaining broad insights into the engineering that underpins the bioprocesses we’re studying. But with a project like this, we’ve been able to use our work to solve problems within very defined constraints.
It’s immensely satisfying to see the difference we’ve made to a company’s growth and practices. As well as showing us that our technology can be incorporated by industry to great effect, the project has Ied to additional research and development opportunities for us, as well as industrial exposure. For example, the project has helped us identify some new challenges that can be addressed in a more fundamental way through an EPSRC doctoral studentship.
The company’s Technical and Compliance Director is now a member of the UCL Biochemical Engineering Strategic Industrial Advisory Board, providing advice on our future research, teaching and knowledge exchange in the industrial biotechnology sector. The KTP Associate, who carried out the process development, liaising between the company and university, is also a key contributor to our teaching activities.
So we’re keeping the links going, and using the project to highlight the value of our world-leading technology to reduce waste and significantly improve bioprocessing efficiency. We’re proud to have won an Institution of Chemical Engineers global award in recognition of what we’ve achieved. We’ve also been selected as finalists in the Engineering Excellence category of the KTP Awards, Best of the Best 2021.
As the first KTP that our team has been involved in, we weren’t sure how it would all pan out. But UCL Innovation & Enterprise have been on hand at every stage, to provide advice and help with all the administration and other funding requirements. That’s helped us stay focused on the academic and research side, with the reassurance that everything else was taken care of.
Overall, I’d say that a KTP is an excellent way to demonstrate application of your research and in particular, to demonstrate its impact in a company setting. If colleagues have ideas that have been tested in academia and want to see how they apply in practice, a KTP is well worth considering. In addition to the commercial outputs, academics can benefit greatly from collaborating with industry through programmes such as this one.
Knowledge Transfer Partnerships
Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs) aim to help businesses improve their competitiveness and productivity through better use of the knowledge, technology and skills held within the UK knowledge base. This KTP project received financial support from UKRI through Innovate UK.
Find out more about:
- UCL Department of Biochemical Engineering
- KTP Project wins IChemE Global Award 2020
- KTP awards: Best of the Best Awards 2021
- Working on a Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP) with UCL
- For UCL staff - Transform businesses through a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP)
- Search for a KTP Associate role
- Innovate UK
- KTN (Knowledge Transfer Network)