MSc Biotechnology for Environmental Sustainability

Postgraduate, Full-time

Biotechnology for Environmental Sustainability MSc

Our course will develop your skills and enable you to undertake a variety of fulfilling roles


Our course will develop your skills and enable you to undertake a variety of fulfilling roles from research, and product and technology development to environmental protection and other leadership positions.

This course is eligible for a SFC funded place for Scottish and EU students – please see the SFC funding page for more information on how to apply. The deadline for applications for a January 2019 start is the 30th of November 2018.

Students working on a conservation field trip

Mode of Study:

Full-time (available as Part-time)


1 year

Start date:


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Course details

This course provides you with in-depth knowledge and critical understanding of key concepts in fermentation and bioprocessing, environmental microbiology, business planning and environmental policy, which are relevant to the application of commercial-scale biotechnologies in an environmentally sustainable manner.

You’ll study the scientific concepts that underpin modern biotechnologies and how innovations can be exploited for the development of products and processes such as biofuels, novel bioactive compounds and waste conversion technologies. You’ll also explore the bioethical, socio-economic and regulatory aspects of environmental sustainability and the role of biotechnologies in environmental protection.

There is an emphasis on developing your practical laboratory skills with various opportunities for hands-on experience in a range of current techniques and practices such as fermentation and environmental monitoring. In your final trimester you’ll undertake an independent project within a vibrant research team, allowing you to apply and further develop your technical, research and professional skills. There may be the opportunity to conduct your research project with one of our Edinburgh Napier start-up companies or externally in a relevant organisation or industry.

You’ll also develop key skills including communication, problem solving, team work, project management, and leadership.

  • calendar How you’ll be taught

    You’ll learn through interactive lectures, workshops, tutorials, site visits, field trips and laboratory sessions, and by engaging with guided independent study. Guest lectures may also be arranged. A variety of assessment tools are used to enhance and evaluate your learning.

    This is a full-time course and is split up into three trimesters. You can choose to start in either January or September.


    • September starts: 12 months
    • January starts: 18 months with a three-month break over the summer (after the first taught trimester)
  • note and pen Assessments

    Your assessments are mapped out across your programme and include formative work to help practice your skills, as well as summative work which will build on this preparatory work. These are carefully spaced out across each trimester to avoid clashes and include many different types of assessment such as essays, lab reports, posters, oral presentations, short discussions, class tests and exams. Some of these assessments involve group-work, whilst others are individual.

    For example: In the Business and Bioethics module, you will work on a business plan and are required to prepare an oral pitch and a written report.

    In the Cell Technology module, you will be assessed on practical lab skills and also via a class test.

  • library Facilities

    The MSc Biotechnology for Environmental Sustainability programme is delivered at our landmark Sighthill Campus where students learn in state of the art laboratories equipped with, for example, category II microbiology facilities; anaerobic chambers; bioreactors; confocal microscopy, molecular biology and in-field analytical equipment, to ensure we meet the needs of students entering employment and research roles in the environmental and biotechnology sectors.


Modules that you will study* as part of this course

Biotechnology for Sustainable Remediation ( MIC11110 )

Bioremediation of polluted terrestrial and aquatic environments; comparison with physical and chemical approaches; Soil bioremediation –biological methods such as biostimulation, bioaugmentation and in situ/ex situ technologies e.g. biopiles, composting and slurry reactors; Biological wastewater treatment systems including secondary and tertiary treatments e.g. fixed film and suspended growth systems and nutrient removal, process design and monitoring, operation control of wastewater processes; strategies for future sustainability of global water sources; Microbial activities and diversity in bioremediation; Potable water treatment processes; industrial pollution e.g. acid mine drainage, microbially enhanced oil recovery (MEOR)

Further information

Biotechnology for Sustainable Renewables ( MIC11112 )

Bio-refineries and biomass conversion to biofuels; focus on current and next-generation biofuel development e.g. butanol, biodiesel from microalgae and biogas and associated technologies; technical and commercial challenges facing biofuel development; Production of sustainable commodities -fine and bulk chemicals and biopolymers e.g. biosurfactants, bioplastics; developments in clean technologies e.g. biological enzymes, desulphurisation of fossil fuels and biorecovery e.g. metal leaching; sustainable bioprospecting for novel natural compounds.

Further information

Business and Bioethics ( MIC11104 )

Development of biotechnology and influencing factors; Basis concepts of IPR, patents & licensing; Technology transfer; Commercialisation strategies and financing for the biotechnology sector; National and global context – markets & trends; Business models and plans - comparison of large corporate vs SMEs, mature companies vs start-ups; Regulatory framework governing management of risk; Introductory ethics and the history of “ethical” regulation; legal implications of being “unethical”; perception of biotechnology by society, sustainability (environmental, social and economic) exploration of specific topics, e.g. personalise medicine, stem cell research, genetic manipulation of crop and fuel plants, transgenic animals, the use of animal/human subjects in research.

Further information

Cell Technology ( MIC11103 )

Cell culture, preservation and manipulation - including microbial, plant, human/animal primary and immortalised cell lines and tissue maintenance; aseptic technique and media design; culture isolation and inoculum development, cell counting; manipulation of cells including non-recombinant and recombinant approaches to strain improvement for bioprocessing, and stem cell therapy.
Units of operation of a bioprocess and factors influencing optimisation - bioreactor design, inoculum development, scale-up, product separation and analysis.
Regulatory and quality framework - COSSH, GMP, GLP, biosafety and containment, product approval, validation and auditing. Responsible scientific practice.
Laboratory experiments/projects in cell culture, media design and preparation, optimisation of fermentation, product separation and analysis, experiment and project design, statistics, data-handling.

Further information

Environmental Sustainability Management ( MIC11111 )

Principles of environmental sustainability – integration of economic, social and environmental aspects; sustainable development – concept of natural capital and economic development; Resource protection including environmental law and policy, relevant regulatory requirements and waste management; approaches to Environmental Quality Assessment e.g. potable and bathing water quality, and monitoring of soil and water remediation processes using standard methods and emerging techniques; Environmental Impact Assessment including risk assessment and toxicity testing; Laboratory experiments in fresh and wastewater quality assessment using microbial and physico-chemical testing methods; eco-toxicity testing e.g. bioluminescent biosensor assays; monitoring of soil remediation processes using molecular ecology approaches; experimental and project design; case study; data-handling and statistics.

Further information

Research Project ( BMS11102 )

In this module you will conduct an independent piece of research, either as a practical laboratory-based project, or a piece of qualitative research (e.g. surveys). This involves design, development and implementation of a programme of research in a particular field of study relevant to your programme of study. You will critically analyse data/information generated, and communicate the outcomes in a written report, which will develop your skills in scientific writing. This will give you experience in summarising information and presentation skills.
On-line literature searches. Literature review. Project formulation. Hypothesis generation. Experimental design. Development of practical skills/research technique. Data generation/collection and analysis. Use of appropriate statistical analysis. Evaluation of findings, critical analysis and conclusions, with reference to supporting literature. Communication of original research results in a report written in the style of a scientific paper.

Further information

Research Skills ( MIC11107 )

In this module you will relate the physico-chemical properties of RNA, DNA and protein to the common methodologies and technologies used for molecular analysis. In doing so, you will understand the parameters that can be varied in the optimisation of a methodology and will be able to predict the effect of alterations to these parameters. You will study the current developments that are taking place in molecular analysis and critically review the application of this technology to areas of interest in biomedical sciences and biotechnology. A series of practical laboratory sessions will help you gain experience in commonly-used practical techniques relating to the lecture material. DNA purification, restriction and quantification; Cloning – vectors, ligation, screening and analysis of clones; Gene expression and protein purification; Protein analysis – quantification, detection and mass spectrometry; Principles of nucleic acid hybridisation and DNA synthesis to applications in PCR, sequencing microarrays and gene silencing techniques (RNA interference); In silico analysis and manipulation of RNA, DNA and protein sequence information (bioinformatics); “-omics” – comparative and functional genomics, proteomics.

Further information

* These are indicative only and reflect the course structure in the current academic year. Some changes may occur between now and the time that you study.

Entry requirements

Entry requirements

The entry requirements for this course is a Bachelor (Honours Degree) at a 2:2 or above, or equivalent. We look for applicants to have a background in a biology discipline such as biological sciences, biotechnology, microbiology, molecular biology, genetics, biochemistry, environmental biology, biomedical sciences in order to be eligible for the programme. 

We may also consider lesser qualifications if you have sufficient relevant work experience within the industry.

English language requirements 

If your first language isn't English, you'll normally need to undertake an approved English language test and our minimum English language requirements will apply.

This may not apply if you have completed all your school qualifications in English, or your undergraduate degree was taught and examined in English (within two years of starting your postgraduate course). Check our country pages to find out if this applies to you.

International students

We welcome applications from students studying a wide range of international qualifications.
Entry requirements by country

Please note that non-EU international students are unable to enrol onto the following courses:
  • BN Nursing/MN Nursing (Adult, Child, Mental Health or Learning Disability)
  • BM Midwifery/MM Midwifery

Admissions policies

We’re committed to admitting students who have the potential to succeed and benefit from our programmes of study. 

Our admissions policies will help you understand our admissions procedures, and how we use the information you provide us in your application to inform the decisions we make.

Undergraduate admissions policies
Postgraduate admissions policies

Fees & funding

The course fees you'll pay and the funding available to you will depend on a number of factors including your nationality, location, personal circumstances and the course you are studying. We also have a number of bursaries and scholarships available to our students.

Tuition fees
Students from 2018/19 2019/20
Home/EU £5,850 £6,084
Overseas £15,150 £15,755

Frequently Asked Questions about Fees.

Information of Bursaries and Scholarships.

SFC funded course

Edinburgh Napier University has funding to support a very limited number of postgraduate taught places for this course. Awards are available for those starting in September and January each year.


  • Career opportunities in areas such as sustainable waste management, bioremediation, environmental protection and monitoring, biorenewables, and bioprocessing, as well as product/technology development.
  • You'll be prepared for a variety of roles including those with a research focus and those with an emphasis on leadership in both multinational companies and smaller biotechnology enterprises.
  • Employment in contract research companies and service providers to the environmental and industrial biotechnology sectors, in addition to government and environment protection agencies.
  • Further study in a research setting: graduates will be qualified to continue to PhD studies in the biosciences.
Landscape across forth of firth

The possibilities for biotechnology in the development of environmentally sustainable solutions and their role in environmental protection are thoroughly explored in this course.

Dr Halina Vaughan

Lead academic, MSc Biotechnology for Environmental Sustainability