“The business and academic community has set out a vision for much greater ambition needed for Britain to be a world leader in the fourth industrial revolution”.
Thanks to the digitisation of nearly everything there are now vast quantities of data gathered by devices connected to the internet. I often notice them during my daily commute.
Prior to cycling through Newcastle I tap into local environmental sensors to see the latest info on air quality or weather data. On the road next to me I notice someone with a Fitbit or mobile phone strapped to their arm recording their heart rate, number of steps taken and how many calories they’ve burned.
If I catch the Metro or bus to work I will likely run into someone with a gadget I’ve never seen before, a new type of mobile phone, notebook, tablet or other digital device that’s streaming Netflix, or some other cloud based entertainment network. And if I get a lift from a friend I often spot a Tesla electric car or Nissan Leaf, both of which hook up to the national grid for charging, but could also potentially store energy for the grid as well. Continue reading The internet of things and the fourth industrial revolution
The possibilities for synthetic biology are numerous. It could play a key role in resolving global environmental challenges that policy makers and regulators are struggling with. It could make industry less polluting, more sustainable and likely more profitable. This is especially true for companies with large ecological footprints who are working to decarbonise. The chemical industry could also change drastically as new forms of life could be designed to produce chemicals that otherwise would have to come from unsustainable sources like petrol.
Plastic pollution could likely become a thing of the past if replaced with bio-based instead of oil based polymers. Cheap, clean ‘next generation’ biofuels are also a major prospect that would help countries succeed in phasing out petrol based fuels altogether. Politically speaking this will take time as oil is likely not to be replaced overnight by sustainable alternatives, but synthetic biology is without a doubt a major player in energy and decarbonisation for multiple reasons.
Imagine for a moment:
Continue reading Engineering life with synthetic biology
Humans and animals share a deep relationship going back to early homo sapiens. With the exception of pets, in many cases we eat each other, but since humans have dominated the planet — normally we eat them. This has not been more the case than in livestock farming where animals are raised for food and are depended on for survival, not only for nutrition, but people’s livelihoods.
Many of the farms in the UK produce cattle and sheep for food. Endemic disease in livestock is a major global challenge, and could likely continue in future if something isn’t done to prevent livestock disease from growing and spreading in the first place.
While TB and foot and mouth catch the headlines, endemic diseases like Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) have been a major problem. 11% of BVD cases in Europe have been in the UK and the national cost has been estimated as high as £61m per year.
Whether livestock disease becomes a problem largely depends upon the practices of farmers and their advisers. Not all farming systems are the same and many of them have a history that goes back a long time. This means solving the problem of disease may not be solely down to applying the ‘right’ scientific or technological solution.
Continue reading Getting to the root of endemic livestock disease in the UK