Innovation news in brief: Biomass; male fertility; chemicals; China

Scientists have made an important development in biomass production

Biomass breakthrough in Manchester

Scientists in Manchester have made an important development in the shift towards renewable energy.

For the first time, scientists at Manchester University have found a way to directly break down a component of plant material that offers the potential for an energy alternative that is almost carbon neutral. As a result they have produced record amounts of clean liquid hydrocarbon fuel.

“State-of-the-art conversions of biomass into fuels typically require separations and pre-treatments to the raw biomass, thus suffering high energy penalties. This new catalytic process is able to directly convert raw biomass to liquid fuels without separations or chemical pre-treatments, leading to significant potential energy savings in the bio-refinery,” said Dr Sihai Yang from the University of Manchester.

Sheffield scientists investigate sperm-boosting nutrient

Scientists at the University of Sheffield are launching a pioneering study to investigate if a simple extra nutrient can boost male fertility.

Studies have already shown that lycopene, the red pigment compound found most readily in sun-ripened tomatoes, can boost sperm count by up to 70 per cent, as well as conferring other benefits on the male reproductive system.

Researchers led by Allan Pacey, Prof of Andrology, and Dr Elizabeth Williams, senior lecturer in human nutrition, at the University’s Department of Oncology and Human Metabolism have launched a 12-week trial to see if raising blood lycopene levels improves sperm quality.

It is estimated that one in six couples are unable to conceive – in about half of cases the problem is caused by poor sperm quality.

Prof Pacey said: “Studies elsewhere in the world have shown that the antioxidant properties of lycopene seem to have a beneficial effect on sperm quality and we want to investigate this further.

“Production of sperm takes three months. This study will tell us if lycopene improves the quality of sperm already in development by reducing DNA damage, and whether it produces an overall increase in the number of mature sperm produced overall.

“There is enough evidence out there to indicate this study is worth doing and I am cautiously optimistic. If it works in the volunteers we would then consider testing it in infertile patients.”

Data provider starts search for innovation excellence in chemicals industry

Data provider ICIS has begun its annual search for innovation excellence in the chemical industry with the launch of its annual innovation awards.

The ICIS Innovation Awards 2016, now in their 13th year, are designed to recognise outstanding technological and business innovation in the chemical industry.

John Baker, ICIS Innovation Awards manager at ICIS, said: “The awards continue to grow and gain industry support and last year attracted a record level of entries. We once again look forward to highlighting the very best of innovation in the chemical industry.”

The winners will be announced in October 2016.

For more information, click here.

Bionow to host life science business pitching event

Bionow and the Centre for Process Innovation will be co-hosting a business pitching and networking opportunities event on May 10 2016 for companies operating in the life sciences sector.

The event, which takes place in Darlington, will benefit the following companies:
• Those based in the North of England
• Developers of technology, products and expertise in the life sciences sector
• Suppliers of technology into the life sciences sector
• Users of products, technology and expertise from life science companies

More information here

China plans to establish 15 manufacturing innovation centres

China’s central government plans to establish a network of 15 innovation centres nationwide to upgrade the country’s manufacturing sector, reports the South China Morning Post.

“The government will collaborate with the private sector and they will both share the spoils,” Li Beiguang, deputy director general of the department of planning, which operates under the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, told the newspaper.

“The amount of investment will be enormous,” he added.