New Report Recommends Standards, Metrics for Multi-Trillion-Dollar Global Bioeconomy

Expert international task force, convened with support from Schmidt Sciences, seeks to drive new era of bioeconomic innovation

SAN JOSE, Calif., May 7, 2024—An international group of experts representing academia, industry, and government released a report today on standardizing the bioeconomy, or the economic activity driven by research and innovation in the life sciences and biotechnology. 

Developers, including academics and industry representatives, have all pointed to different aspects of the bioeconomy innovation pipeline that, if standardized, could enable faster development with the end goal of creating a more sustainable and circular bioeconomy.

Coordinated by Imperial College London, the Engineering Biology Research Consortium (EBRC), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the National University of Singapore (NUS), with support from Schmidt Sciences, the report is a response to the field’s need for standards and metrics and the lack of clarity on which standards to prioritize—from how to catalog organisms used in bioproduction to help make technology transfer more predictable and accurate to making sure data is formatted the same way to enable easier sharing.    

“At least 50 nations have tailored bioeconomy strategies or policies steering towards a sustainable bioeconomy, yet we still lack a shared lexicon or standards to facilitate collaboration,” said Andrea Hodgson, Ph.D., program scientist at Schmidt Sciences. “This report identifies key areas where developing standards and metrics could transform the industry—and lead us to develop essential biological solutions for global challenges like the climate crisis.”

Representatives from the four partner organizations joined regional stakeholders from the Americas, Europe, and Asia to identify 10 key focus areas. These range from technical areas such as data standards, common definitions, and metrics to quantify and scale up biological processes, to non-technical areas vital for the growth of the bioeconomy, including public engagement and regulatory clarity to aid the safe and efficient commercialization of new products.

Paul Freemont, Ph.D., head of structural and synthetic biology at Imperial College London and director of the London Biofoundry, said: “We wanted to build a better understanding of the current state of the bioeconomy globally, to provide context around the needs for standardization. This meant having regional discussions, where local stakeholders could provide the relevant knowledge and share their own perspectives around what standards are needed, what type of standardization would work, and what their priorities were.”

India Hook-Barnard, Ph.D., executive director of the Engineering Biology Research Consortium, said: “Without relevant standards and metrics, we will likely see missed opportunities for innovation and major challenges across the innovation pipeline, including with data integration, process reproducibility and product safety and quality.”

Matthew W. Chang, Ph.D., director of the Synthetic Biology Centre for Clinical and Technological Innovation (SynCTI) at the National University of Singapore and of the Singapore Consortium for Synthetic Biology (SINERGY) said: “Despite many differences raised across the regional workshops, there was a clear consensus that having some form of standardization would benefit the global bioeconomy.”

Dr. Sheng Lin-Gibson, Chief of the Biosystems and Biomaterials Division (BBD) at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), said: “This study will be very valuable in giving the international standard setting bodies a sense of what stakeholders in the bioeconomy need and how they prioritize focus areas. Prioritizing the development of key standards identified by this effort is vital to promote innovation, expand manufacturing capacity, and reduce the cost and time it takes to bring new bioeconomy products from the laboratory to the market.”

The report, Engineering Biology Metrics and Technical Standards for the Global Bioeconomy, is available to download here.

About Schmidt Sciences
Schmidt Sciences is a nonprofit organization founded in 2024 by Eric and Wendy Schmidt that works to advance science and technology that accelerates and deepens human understanding of the natural world and develops solutions to global issues. The organization makes grants in four areas—AI and advanced computing, astrophysics and space, biosciences and climate—as well as supporting researchers in a variety of disciplines through its cross-sciences program.


Media Contact:

Swati Pandey