Page Loading

Synthetic biology: foresighting - technologies and markets


Synthetic biology is the application of engineering concepts to the construction of biological systems. It has potential applications in the fields of bioenergy, drug development, chemical synthesis and biosensors, among others. It is an emerging field which is attracting considerable interest from academia and industry. This study sought to assess the current market situation and make projections for future growth.


The study took the form of desk-based research which looked at: enabling technologies; applications; biosafety and ethics; intellectual property; financing; and Scottish activity.


The report drew the following conclusions: synthetic biology is a promising field with numerous potential applications; wholly synthetic systems remain several years from realisation; technologies and understanding must be improved if this is to be achieved, and such progress may best be made in an academic rather than a commercial environment; a more ‘top-down’ approach that utilises existing natural systems may lead to marketable applications within a shorter time frame; the complexity of biological systems, and our lack of understanding of them, remains a key barrier to development; returns from synthetic biology are unlikely to be achieved within the near to mid-term, but could begin to open up within a 7-10 year time frame; and the area of industrial biotechnology is one that merits further analysis.


There were no recommendations as this was not within the remit of the report.

Author ITI Life Sciences
Published Year 2010
Report Type Research
  • Business infrastructure
    Supporting key sectors
  • Sectors
    Life Sciences