Early Career Researchers – Looking for funding?

Looking for help with conference fees, training, outreach or want to do more within your subject?

There are numerous societies and professional bodies which encourage and support ECRs. Most feature reduced membership fees for students which allow you to access their multitude of bursaries, scholarships, awards, grants and events worth thousands of pounds.

Try the Royal Society of Chemistry (£20), the Royal Society of Biology (£37.50), the Biochemical Society (£24), the Microbiology Society (£30), Society for Applied Microbiology (£25), The Society for Experimental Biology (£22),The British Ecological Society (free), the European Society for Evolutionary Biology (£26), IChemE (£25), ICE (free), CIWM (free), CIWEM (free).

It is also worth looking for support from Trusts and Charities which can assist ECRs with supporting grants e.g. The Sir Richard Stapley Educational Trust, see: www.stapleytrust.org/wp/about/  or the Leathersellers’ Company, see:  www.leathersellers.co.uk/education/educational-awards/.

There are hints about how to proceed at www.findamasters.com/funding/guides/alternative-masters-funding.aspx .

Funded PhD Scholarship on Biogas from Biomass Residues – MMU – Deadline 31 Jan 17

The aim of this PhD is to demonstrate the potential of the investigated biomass integrated biorefinery configuration to produce green compostable bioplastic (PLA) and bioenergy in the form of biogas. This is an excellent opportunity to apply the principles of oil refinery to degradable biomass in a zero-waste approach for sustainable production of value-added products and energy. More information can be found on the MMU website.

Bangor University LCA Part-time MSc: Scrutinising bioenergy and bio-based products with life cycle assessment

Would you like to learn about LCA methodology?

A part-time MSc module on Carbon Foot-printing and Life Cycle Assessment will be delivered entirely online by Bangor University from January through to April 2017, drawing on freely available online calculators

Bioenergy and bio-based products for the circular economy

According to the IEA, “Bioenergy is energy derived from the conversion of biomass where biomass may be used directly as fuel, or processed into liquids and gases.” Examples include heat from wood pellets, electricity from biogas produced from food waste or crops, and electricity from combustion of straw or miscanthus. Policies to improve security of energy supply and reduce dependence on finite and polluting fossil fuels, exemplified by the Renewable Energy Directive, have been a major driver of the expansion of bioenergy across the EU over the past decade. 

Simultaneously, the Circular Economy Strategy is driving the use of bio-based products that can be recycled within biological cycles. A European standard defines “bio-based products” as “products wholly or partly derived from biomass, such as plants, trees or animals (the biomass can have undergone physical, chemical or biological treatment)”. Examples of bio-based products include egg cartons made from grass and recycled paper, and compostable bags made from polylactic acid derived from maize.

Whilst the aforementioned strategies are generally well targeted to improve the sustainability of our economy, they do place additional pressures on farming, and agricultural land resources, to produce the necessary bio-feedstocks. The production of such bio-feedstocks may sometimes be in competition with food production (see Popp et al., 2014), leading to possible “carbon leakage” by displacing food production via international trade (Searchinger et al., 2008). This has led to increasing scrutiny of bioenergy and bio-based products, invoking questions including:

  • Are bio-based products more sustainable than conventional products they replace?
  • How much land do they require?
  • Do they reduce or increase greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that cause climate change?
  • Do they contribute to air and water pollution via leaky nutrient cycles?
  • How effective are they at sparing finite resources?

Life cycle assessment

Life cycle assessment (LCA) is a rigorous, scientific approach that can be applied to answer such questions based on methodology defined by the International Standards Organisation (ISO 14040; ISO 14044) and, for related carbon foot-printing, by PAS 2050. LCA quantifies the environmental impact (potential) over the life cycle of a product or service. An example is the carbon footprint, expressed as kg CO2e (climate impact potential) of generating one kWh of bio-electricity. LCA may be applied to:

  1. Benchmark the environmental intensity of bioenergy and bio-products against replaced conventional energy and products
  2. Identify production strategies that minimise environmental impacts and thus improve the sustainability of such products

 Farm stage “hotspots”

Cultivation of bio-feedstocks on farms is usually the hotspot stage in bioenergy and bio-based product value chains, giving rise to the largest share of environmental impact. Agriculture, forestry and land use change account for approximately 25% of global GHG emissions (IPCC, 2014), and approximately half of humans’ wider ecological footprint. This reflects the loss of large amounts of carbon from vegetation and soils when land is converted to agriculture, leaky cycling of nutrients (see the excellent video on nitrogen impacts made by the European Nitrogen Assessment), and the extraction and manufacture of inputs such as fertilisers. Figure 1, below, shows that wood heat has less impact on global warming, fossil resource depletion and acidification than oil heat, but may have a greater impact on eutrophication (nutrient enrichment of waters) than oil heat. The latter impact is highly dependent on farm management and landscape context of willow cultivation; application of fertiliser leads to relatively high eutrophication burdens, whilst planting willow on buffer strips next to rivers can “mop up” nutrients lost from neighbouring food production.   


Figure 1. Environmental burdens of heat from wood chips produced using willow  cultivated in different ways, and from oil. Source: Styles et al. (2016)

Consequential LCA

Consequential LCA is an increasingly popular form of LCA that expands system boundaries to consider marginal direct and indirect changes incurred by a particular intervention, such as the introduction of bio-feedstock production into a farm system. In a recent study (Styles et al., 2015a) we applied consequential LCA to demonstrate that the introduction of a biogas plant into a large dairy farm to generate electricity from slurry, grass and maize can lead to substantial carbon savings by avoiding emissions from slurry storage and grid electricity generation, but also entails significant risk of large carbon leakage from indirect land use change caused by displacement of cattle feed production to other countries (e.g. soybeans from Brazil). Subsequently, we also found that GHG emissions from indirect land use change potentially caused by establishment of maize monocultures on arable farms to supply large crop-fed biogas plants can outweigh GHG savings from avoiding grid electricity generation. However, if maize is established on small portions of multiple farms as a break crop, optimisation of food crop rotations can mitigate this possible land use change effect (Styles et al., 2015b). Most of the bioenergy carbon calculators available online (e.g. Biograce) do not consider indirect effects, although the excellent Biomass Emissions And Counterfactual model produced by DECC does consider the counterfactual fate of feedstock that is used for bioenergy, such as US forest residues used to substitute coal in the Drax power station.

Would you like to learn about LCA methodology?

A part-time MSc module on Carbon Foot-printing and Life Cycle Assessment will be delivered entirely online by Bangor University from January through to April 2017, drawing on freely available online calculators and the latest research to demonstrate application of LCA to evaluate bioenergy and bio-based product value chains, and their interaction with food production. This module is part of the Industrial Biotechnology MSc, and BBSRC Advanced Training Partnership. Anyone wishing to enrol on the full Bangor or Aberystwyth MSc courses that this module sits within may also be eligible for the new English postgraduate loan. Registration now open, until 6th January!


See also the module on On-Farm Anaerobic Digestion (AD) – May 2017

Careers Fair for Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy Scientists

Our careers fair will provide you with the chance to meet employers face-to-face, to learn about current vacancies and opportunities available, and to market yourself to prospective employers. There are several talks you can attend about the sector and the opportunities within it, along with opportunity to get advice on your CV from professionals.  

  • Explore careers in IBBE from laboratory based jobs to working as a patent lawyer
  • Meet  employers with graduate schemes, current and future job opportunities
  • Hear from different employers about what it’s like to work for them
  • Get feedback on your CV in our one-to-one clinics
  • Speak with industrialists in our one-to-one clinics
  • Speak with academics  in our one-to-one clinics
  • Speak to the BBSRC about your future career in academia in our one-to-one clinics



The local organising committee of Biogas Science 2016 to be held in Szeged, Hungary from 21-24 Aug 16 has extended the deadline for abstracts to 10 July, so there is still time to submit to this prestigious conference.

Note that ECR members of the AD Network can apply to us for travel vouchers to help defray the cost of attending this event – have a look on the website or contact us.

Brazil Newton Fund Researcher Links Workshop – Water, Sanitation, Energy Nexus – 13-16 Sep 16

Under the Researcher Links scheme offered within the Newton Fund, University College London and the Instituto Federal de Goias will be holding a workshop on the Water, Sanitation and Energy Nexus Research Initiative in Goiania, Brazil from 13 to 16 September 2016.The workshop aims to promote decentralized closed-loop water and wastewater systems to reduce waste and recover energy and nutrients. The scheme is open to Early Career Researcher.

More information can be found here or by contacting Dr Luiza Campos (l.campos@ucl.ac.uk). The deadline for applications is 10 July 16.

ECR – IB Skills Workshop – 18 and 19 May 16 – Register NOW

C1Net and a number of other BBSRC NIBBs are planning to fund a joint 2 day conference for young scientists working in IBB.

The event will be organized by Cogent, and is supported by the BBSRC and the IBLF skills group.

When 18th & 19th May, 2016Start: ~10.00am On 18th MayFinish: ~4.00pm on 19th May
Where Manchester MacDonald Hotel, London Road, Manchester M1 2PG.
What Free participation and Full boardThe event has 5 main objectives:1.       To make scientists aware of the many non-laboratory career options within Industrial Biotechnology

2.       To do some training on soft skills, such as communications, project management, IP, finance etc.

3.       To explain what it is like to work in industry in companies of different sizes

4.       How to write different proposals for getting money

5.       To be able to meet practising people from different disciplines such as patents, marketing, quality & regulations etc and to meet representatives from companies who during 2016 will be looking for extra staff

C1net will be able to offer ~10 free places at this event, which will be awarded to successful applicants.
More details and an application process will follow.

To register you interest please email jacqueline.minton@nottingham.ac.uk ASAP

Anaerobic Digestion Network ECR Travel Vouchers Available for Biogas Science: Hungary Aug 16

The Anaerobic Digestion Network is offering a limited number of Travel Bursaries for Early Career Researchers (ECRs) to attend the above event to be held on 21-24th Aug 16 at the University of Szeged in Hungary. The Anaerobic Digestion Network can fund travel and accommodation expenses up to £1500 to present at major events in the AD calendar. If you are an Early Career Researcher, are presenting at an event in the UK or overseas,  simply fill in our application form at: http://www.anaerobicdigestionnet.com/funding