Although nowdays often associated only with advances in medical therapeutics and production of pharmaceuticals, biotechnology is much more generally defined as ‘the application of microorganisms/cells or components thereof (e.g., enzymes) for the production of useful goods and services’. As such it has a particularly important role to play in the development of sustainable industrial processes. For example, a recent McKinsey report cited in The Economist (2004) estimates that 5% of global chemical sales are derived in part currently from industrial biotechnology and it is projected that this will more than double by 2010. The report suggested that some of these new biobased processes will result from the emerging techniques of recombinant DNA technology, metabolic engineering, functional genomics and proteomics, bioinformatics, and so on, which are rapidly outpacing advances in the more traditional and catalytic-based chemical processes. Others are likely to be stimulated by the needs of improved pollution control and the potential for using renewable, agricultural-based raw materials.

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