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Value Exploration of Restorative Agile Biorefining
for a Competitive Bioeconomy

The UK is resource-rich in nature’s treasure trove of biological materials much of which is underutilised, undervalued and, by not taking a whole systems approach, even goes unrecognised. We propose to investigate the concept of agile biorefineries that are feedstock flexible, infrastructure flexible and with physical size that enables several low-cost localised biorefineries to be feasible, hence spreading the benefits across location, and including an open science approach that encourages local makers to join with global supply chains. In this feasibility study we seek to map value flows through these novel configurations to identify key parameters of a successful agile biorefining system. Given the increasing social demands and ecological challenges, a generation of new business models is emerging that provide a logic for value creation based on principles encompassing equitable value exchange.


An enterprise that adopts a restorative approach will proactively move the boundary of what it is taking into account and begins to take responsibility not only for its internal systems but also for the larger social and natural systems. Central to the Agile Biorefinery concept is having the ability to deal with a variety of biomass input resource flows, processing in an agile way, whilst connecting to industry, to consumers and to citizen scientists and entrepreneurs. We have no examples of agile biorefineries globally and this proposal seeks to become a first step towards making the UK the global leader in such technology. The UK has the potential to pioneer agile biorefining, whereby multiple smaller biorefineries can co-operate to valorise farm, food and textile wastes using known technologies in novel configurations.

Prof. Steve Evans

University of Cambridge

Professor Steve Evans is Director of the Centre for Industrial Sustainability, which brings together disciplines around key challenges in moving industry toward sustainability. Steve has pioneered many techniques, from radical resource efficiency strategies through sustainable business model innovation to system re-thinking. He has a 15 year industrial career, at 26 becoming Engineering Systems Manager at world leading ejection seat company Martin-Baker Engineering. His research has led to tools used by 300+ companies across 25 countries, and influencing UK and international policy.

Steve has leadership experience from start-ups, government, multi-nationals, charities etc. He is Chair of the IET Manufacturing Policy Panel and Co-Chair, with Lord Bilimoria, of the Manufacturing Commission. Steve volunteers each year in Brazilian favelas. Steve is a serial cleantech entrepreneur, focussing on disruptive start-ups, such as being Chair of the Board for Project X Global, a start-up shifting $1.3T of purchased materials to sustainable sources.

Professor Evans has been at the forefront of industrial sustainability research such as holding the 1st UK grant in sustainable product service systems, multiple grants in industrial symbiosis and projects in bio-refining with industry. In recognition of his academic leadership Steve was elected as Member of Academia Europaea in 2019.

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University of Cambridge

Dr Doroteya Vladimirova is Director of the Regenerative Business Models Programme and a Senior Research Associate at the Centre for Industrial Sustainability, Institute for Manufacturing, University of Cambridge, and a Fellow of the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership. Doroteya’s research focuses on how business is taking on the most pressing global challenges relating climate crisis, finite natural resources, enhancing livelihoods, reducing poverty and protecting ecosystems, to turn them into opportunities.


Doroteya is a multidisciplinary qualitative scholar and a futurist. She has spent 12 years studying sustainable value creation, business model innovation, circular economy and the future of business. Doroteya’s work bridges the gap between research and practice, and she translates her research into practical tools. She works closely with environmental and social entrepreneurs and advises leading global businesses on their transition towards new sustainable business models. Doroteya is a Tutor on the Postgraduate Certificate in Sustainable Business (Value Chains) and an academic supervisor on the MSt in Sustainability Leadership.


Doroteya holds a PhD from Cranfield University. Prior to academia, her career spanned over a decade across the fields of international affairs and trade with national and foreign governments, and in manufacturing with one of the world’s largest automakers.

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