Durham University has secured a share of an £18m government investment to develop links with industry.
Scientists from the institution will research the properties of metals found in molecules and test how they could be used in the production of biopharmaceuticals, materials, valuable chemicals and sustainable energy.
The initial investment, split between 13 networks, is part of a £45m funding programme from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council under its Networks in Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy (NIBB) project.
Professor Nigel Robinson, network principal investigator, said: “Understanding the properties of metals when bound to different types of proteins presents us with opportunities to engineer cells and biological molecules to generate new activities or to improve them for biotechnology.
“By working with industry we will translate knowledge of metals in biology into products to benefit everyday lives as well as providing employment and economic opportunities.”
Universities and science minister, David Willetts, added: “To get ahead in the global race we need to turn our world-beating science and research into world-beating products and services.
“These networks will unlock the huge potential of biotechnology and bioenergy, such as finding innovative ways to use leftover food, and creating chemicals from plant cells.”