MSc Biotechnology for Environmental Sustainability

Postgraduate, Full-Time

This course will enhance your understanding of key concepts in biotechnology and environmental sustainability and their practical application from innovation to commercialisation.

  • Napier code:


  • Course type:


  • Duration:

    1 year, or 18 months for January start

  • Award:


  • Location:

    Sighthill campus

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Course introduction

This course is designed to enhance your career in a wide range of sectors, such as biorenewables, bioremediation and bioprocessing in which environmental sustainability is a key consideration. It will enable you to undertake a variety of fulfilling roles from research, and product and technology development to environmental protection and other leadership positions.

Biotechnology for Environmental Sustainability will equip you with broad theoretical knowledge and critical understanding of advanced principles in biotechnology. You’ll also gain the practical skills required to underpin a career within an industrial or research setting.

You’ll be supported by an active research group with varied interests and links with relevant industries, research institutes and other organisations.

Tosin Oye

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

This is a full-time programme over one year and is split up into three trimesters. You can choose to start in either January or September. There may also be some opportunities to study abroad.

Subjects include

  • Cell technology
  • Business and bioethics
  • Biotechnology for sustainable renewables
  • Research skills
  • Biotechnology for sustainable remediation
  • Environmental sustainability management
  • Independent research project

Study modules mentioned above are indicative only. Some changes may occur between now and the time that you study.

Full information on this is available in our disclaimer.

Environmental sustainability is an increasingly important consideration in many aspects of our lives. Biotechnology underpins many of the solutions to existing unsustainable practices and offers the possibility of new products and as such is predicted to be a key driver in the future global economy.

This course provides a wide range of 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.

Opportunities may also exist in contract research companies and service providers to the environmental and industrial biotechnology sectors, in addition to government and environment protection agencies.

Successful completion of the MSc programme also provides a sound platform for further study in a research setting; graduates will be qualified to continue to PhD studies in the biosciences.

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.

Our entry requirements indicate the minimum qualifications with which we normally accept students. Competition for places varies from year to year and you aren't guaranteed a place if you meet the minimum qualifications.

International students

If your qualifications aren't listed above, visit our country pages to get entry requirements for your 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 are committed to being as accessible as possible to anyone who wants to achieve higher education.

Our admissions policies will help you understand our admissions procedures and how decisions are made.

Tuition fees
Students from 2017/18 2018/19
Home/EU £3,750 £5,850
Overseas £14,690 £15,150

Frequently Asked Questions about Fees.

Information of Bursaries and Scholarships.

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 )

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 )

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.