4 Minutes with…Roger Kilburn, CEO, the Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre

April 26, 2015 |

kilburnTell us about your company and it’s role in the Advanced Bioeconomy.  

IBioIC’s role is as a specialist in the Industrial Biotechnology (IB) sector, designed to stimulate the growth and success of the IB industry in Scotland by connecting the dots between industry, academia and government. It represents all four colors of IB, facilitating collaborations and guiding organizations from concept to industry adoption.

Tell us about your role and what you are focused on in the next 12 months.  

My current priority is getting the right team in place to move forward the project program, deliver the strategic focus and of course, get these projects funded.

The IBioIC’€™s strategic focus is to support industrial membership, develop technical capabilities, support the development of bio-refineries and pilot facilities and provide a skilled workforce for the Scottish IB industry.

We have an industry focus that looks to proactively develop innovations in the chemical and life sciences; opportunistically develop idea in renewable energy, oil & gas and food & drink and reactively support new possibilities in textiles and engineering.

Our critical success factors involve meaningful engagement with industry to deliver high impact projects. Part of this will only happen by securing sufficient funding for activities and engaging with supporters and stakeholders. Underlying this is, as in any industry, recruiting and retaining talented staff.

What do you feel are the most important milestones the industry must achieve in the next 5 years?   

My current priority is getting the right team in place to move forward the IB project program, deliver the strategic focus and of course, get these projects funded.

If you could snap your fingers and change one thing about the Advanced Bioeconomy, what would you change? 

A changing of mindsets… When people start looking at innovating processes or changing materials they automatically think ‘chemistry’€™, not ‘biology’€™. There needs to be a long-term change so that industry leaders begin to think of bio-based solutions as a way forward, as a way to innovate processes, technologies and products going forward.

Of all the reasons that influenced you to join the Advanced Bioeconomy industry, what single reason stands out for you as still being compelling and important to you?   

My background is chemical engineering; my true inspiration came from realizing the majority of the products I made throughout my career would have worked better with biology, not chemistry! Last century we came a long way in the industrialization of chemistry. This century is set to be the industrialization of biology, an exciting concept for all.

Where are you from? 

Southampton, in the south of England.

What was your undergraduate major in college, and where did you attend? Why did you choose that school and that pathway?   

I studied Chemical Engineering at the Polytechnic of Wales, now known as the University of Wales. I had always enjoyed Chemistry and Mathematics and the degree made me unafraid of science. I quickly realised that my interests leaned towards the industrial/commercial applications of all I was learning rather than the foundation science itself.

Who do you consider your mentors – could be personal, business, or just people you have read about and admire. What have you learned from them?  

After stints in process engineering, I completed a commercial conversion course and joined Johnson Matthey, a leader in sustainable technologies. It was here that I worked with Pelham Hawker, a former Director of the company who was also a great mentor. He was someone who really believed in the value of innovation and new science as the route to success.

My colleague and the IBioIC’s Chairman, Ian Shott is also inspirational through the many successes he has achieved. He has worked for a variety of large companies, consulted across the industry, bought and sold companies and is now involved in shaping the future of the industry through his work with the academic networks. He really has gone out there and done it! He also happens to have studied Chemical Engineering and hails from Southampton..

Broader business visionaries such as Bill Gates and Steve Jobs also inspire me as they saw how the world was moving, reacted and innovated to give us things we didn’t know we needed yet.

What’s the biggest lesson you ever learned during a period of adversity?   

Never take it personally; it’s just business!

What hobbies do you pursue, away from your work in the industry?   

I have been to the theatre six times already this year and also love to eat out. Living in the Scottish countryside, I enjoy walking and climb the country’€™s big hills every year. My wife and I grow our own vegetables and I built our greenhouse (still standing after five years!). I enjoy sailing and will spend a week in the Adriatic this June.

What are 3 books you’d want to have with you, if you were stranded on a desert island.   

The Encyclopedia Britannica, The Bible and the complete works of Arthur Conan Doyle (slightly cheating there I know).

What books or articles (excluding The Digest) are on your reading list right now, or you just completed and really enjoyed?  

I mostly read biographies and am currently in the middle of one about Steve Jobs, which I am enjoying very much.

What’s your favorite city or place to visit, for a holiday?   

Sydney is beautiful but far away. In terms of accessible places, Cape Town is wonderful; as is most of Africa.

My personal travel ambitions include completing an expedition to Antartica and sailing the Atlantic.


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Category: Million Minds

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