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Steve Skill

Steve has considerable experience in photobiotechnology and for 35 years has been designing and optimizing photobioreactors (PBR) for microalgal cultivation. As a Biochemist, his work began at Lancaster University investigating the transcriptomics of cell differentiation and nitrogen fixation in filamentous cyanobacteria. In 1984 Steve founded Blue-Green Biotech and designed an artificially illuminated PBR system powered by biogas generated electricity from the anaerobic digestion of farm wastes. Then as general manager of Biotechna Ltd, he jointly developed the Biocoil PBR design and applied this to several applications including; phyto-pharmaceutical production, algal paste production for larval feeds, waste water treatment and CO2 sequestration. The manifold system of the Biocoil was subsequently used in the Biofence PBR design adopted by many algal researchers worldwide. Working collaboratively with Professor Bill Oswald (Berkeley), he investigated the integration of PBRs in to sewage treatment processes and in 1993 deployed the UK’s first microalgae based wastewater treatment system in collaboration with Severn Trent PLC. Steve has worked with several companies to develop a process to valorise digestate from anaerobic digestion and applied unique photosynthetic microbes processes to directly treat digestate from livestock rearing, potato and cassava processing. He has independently developed a new class of PBRs, successfully applying the systems to intensive fish farm water recycling and latterly sewage treatment. In 2006 he began working with Plymouth Marine Laboratory to apply his microalgal biotechnology expertise and proprietary PBR technology and in 2009, proposed, designed and constructed the UK’s first carbon capture based microalgal biorefinery at Boots PLC (Nottingham) employing a 16,000 litre photobioreactor directly coupled to a gas power station (£2.1M project funded by the Technology Strategy Board). He initiated a joint venture with leading  Environmental Consultants and a UK Water Utility company, to evaluate an algal based sewage treatment system designed by Greenskill operating at a UK sewage works. In 2014-2017 he has assisted Swansea University as part time Senior Researcher in projects including an Innovate UK funded demonstration process, Green Mining, and the deployment of an algal based minewater remediation and metal recovery system at an abandoned mine site in mid Wales. In 2017 he won an Innovate UK grant to develop a new range of scale-able photobioreactors.

Key Research Projects

Technology Strategy Board: Health & Life Sciences - Manufacturing Using Spectral Emissions (MUSE) (£100k) 2017-2018

PI & proposer. UK Water Company: Nutrient and pharmaceutical removal from wastewater. A demonstration scale microalgal biofilm water treatment system. 2014 – (in operation).

PI. Natural Resources Wales and & Welsh Government. SBRI project. Green Mining. The development of a passive metal minewater remediation and resource recovery process using microalgae. 2015-2016 (£25k & £75k)

Project concept originator but not involved. BBSRC:DBT- SuBB. Flow cytometry and genomics to characterise microalgal-bacterial consortia cultivated on wastewater to produce biomass for biofuel. (Waste to Biofuel) (£800K).

Co-I. EU:ERDF INTERREG IVB- Energetic Algae- EnAlgae. Developing sustainable technologies for algal biomass production. 2011-2015. 20 partners. (£15M project)

Co-I. Technology Strategy Board: Industrial Biotechnology - High Value Chemicals. (BW015F) Extracting high value chemicals from microalgae through industrial biotechnology. 2010 (~£245k)

PI. Technology Strategy Board -Low Carbon Energy Programme: (CCIF). Biorefinery carbon capture and conversion into industrial feedstocks as direct replacements for petrochemicals, and transformation system development in cyanobacteria CX. 2009-2013 (£2.1m)

Co-I DEFRA- BBSRC-LINK. Integrated approach to cost-effective production of biodiesel from  photosynthetic microbes. Pivotal to securing funding, not involved in project. 2009-2014. (£1.5M) 

Co-I. BBSRC-DEFRA LINK Renewable Material Programme. (RM012:BBE0189981). Optimising yield of antioxidants and sunscreens in microalgae for sustainable biosynthesis of ingredients for health and beauty products. 2007-2010 (~£1.1m)

Co-I. Technology Strategy Board (H0225J). Identification and sustainable extraction of active compounds from marine microalgae. 2006-2009 (~£900k)

PI. Development of Photobioreactor Technology. South West RDA. 2008 South West RDA., £30K

Co-PI. NERC SBRI. Application of Photobioreactor Technology. 2006-2008. (£250K).

PI. DTI Smart Award. 2000. ‘Gently pumping bugs’ Photobioreactor pump development for fragile microalgae. (£30k)

Research assistant. SERC. Identification and isolation of heterocyst specific gene sequences from filamentous blue-green algae. 1984-1987.