Biopharmaceutical Bioprocessing Technology Centre

Algae Bioprocessing

Algae Bioprocessing: ScotBio

Thanks to the EngD project the company moved its business focus and is now breaking into the natural food colouring market.

ScotBio was founded in 2007 as Scottish Bioenergy aiming to use algae as a biofuel source. But as with many great discoveries also ScotBio’s current success is based on a finding made by chance. BBTC student Chelsea Brain discovered how a specific type of red light can boost production of phycocyanin, the blue pigment in the algae Spirulina. The company moved its business focus and is now breaking into the natural food colouring market with ScotBio BlueTM. This market is estimated to be worth $500 million by 2020, from $50m in 2015, as consumers increasingly ask for natural additives.

Phycocyanin is a powerful anti-oxidant and natural anti-inflammatory approved by the FDA since 2013. The ScotBio BlueTM production process is contained allowing the company to control everything that goes in making it highly reliable. The use of special red light leads to a yield increase of 250% compared to standard methods.

ScotBio has acknowledged that the EngD project at Newcastle University saved the company. Since completion of the project the company has raised over £500,000 and has built a 16,000 L pilot facility in BioCity Glasgow. The facility provides the setting to crank up production of ScotBio BlueTM as well as to showcase the production to potential customers. The first client is Firkin Gin, who is producing a blue gin showing off the intensity of ScotBio BlueTM. StuBrew Newcastle University’s student run brewery used the blue dye for a special edition green St. Patrick’s Day beer.

The business success that came with the focus on natural food dye is acknowledge by a number of prizes for the company: Polly Van Alstyne, who was involved with the company from the start and joined fulltime as COO since ScotBio BlueTM launched, won the AccelerateHer 2017 prize and the company was shortlisted for the ‘If At First You Don’t Succeed’ award by the London Business School in acknowledgement of the winding path to success. ScotBio featured as well in a number of news article and TV interviews.