PHYCONET is managed by an Executive Group and steered by a Management Board.

Executive Group

The Executive Group comprises PHYCONET Director Saul Purton (University College London), Co-Director Michele Stanley (Scottish Association for Marine Science) and Network Manager Janet Waterhouse (University College London).

Saul Purton - Director

Saul Purton – Director

Saul is a Professor of Algal Biotechnology at University College London,where he heads the UCL Algal Biotechnology Group. He obtained his PhD in plant molecular biology from the University of Cambridge in 1988, and was then awarded a long-term EMBO Research Fellowship to study algal molecular-genetics at the University of Geneva, before taking up a permanent academic position at UCL in 1991.

Saul has over 25 years of research experience in the field of algal biology and molecular genetics, with current research projects focusing on: i) the biology, genetics and evolution of the algal chloroplast and mitochondrion; ii) the development of green algae and cyanobacteria as GM platforms for the production of novel fuel molecules or therapeutic proteins. He played a pioneering role in the development of technologies for introducing genes into the nuclear and chloroplast genomes of the model alga, Chlamydomonas, and several on-going projects in the Group aim to develop similar methods for other industrially important algal species.

He is also head of Algae @ UCL, a virtual centre at UCL whose members are biologists, engineers, architects and social scientists working together to explore novel applications of microalgae. Finally, he is a founding member of the Algal Biotechnology Consortium that brings together algal groups from the  University of Cambridge, UCL and Rothamsted Research Institute.

Michele Stanley - Co-Director

Michele Stanley – Co-Director

Michele  has over 21 years research experience in the area of biochemistry and molecular biology. She has worked on applied phycology projects for more than 17 years and her main focus at SAMS has been leading the development and the continued strengthening research in the area of algal biotechnology both locally and internationally.

Michele’s other main role was as the Director of the NERC/TSB Algal Bioenergy Special Interest Group (2011-2014). She is a member of EPSRC’s Energy Strategic Advisory Team,  the Scottish Government’s Science and Research Working Group for the Ministerial Group for Sustainable Aquaculture representing Blue Technology, the UK Cross Research Councils Bioenergy Group, vice-chair for the Scientific Advisory Board of the Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre (IBioIC) and a member of the steering committees for both the Aquaculture and Marine Renewable Energy forums under Marine Alliance of Science and Technology Scotland (MASTS).

Janet Waterhouse - Network Manager

Janet Waterhouse – Network Manager

Janet is responsible for the day-to-day management of PHYCONET, reporting to the Directors.

She is an experienced molecular microbiologist, having worked previously as a scientist in the biotech industry, and was formerly a post-doctoral researcher in Saul Purton’s group, working on high-value protein (human growth hormone) production in microalgae and cyanobacteria, and assessing nuclear and chloroplast transformation methods in Haematococcus pluvialis and Lobosphaera incisa.


Management Board

The PHYCONET Management Board comprises members from academia, industry and other relevant organisations.

Tom Jenkins - Co-Chair

Tom Jenkins – Co-Chair

Dr Tom Jenkins is a Lead Technologist at InnovateUK (formerly known as the Technology Strategy Board) working in the Agriculture and Food Sector, and has responsibility for delivering the £70m Agri-Tech Catalyst programme. The Agri-Tech Catalyst is one of two key funding recommendations highlighted in the recent Government Strategy paper “A UK Strategy for Agricultural Technologies” to support the translation of R&D into practical applications to meet the sustainable intensification challenge of our agricultural sector.

Prior to joining Innovate UK, Tom was Assistant Director at the Biosciences Knowledge Transfer Network and led the Plant & Crop Sector team, where activities focussed around knowledge exchange between the research-base and industry to help accelerate the commercialisation of new technology.  He also managed two Special Interest Groups (SIGs) on behalf of the Technology Strategy Board, the Algal Bioenergy SIG and Synthetic Biology SIG.

Tom received his PhD in Plant Molecular Genetics from the University of Leeds and has also held R&D posts in France, Denmark and the UK where research focussed on applied biosciences and agriculture, including biotic and abiotic stress responses in plants and crops, horizontal gene transfer and biotechnology.

Beatrix Schlarb-Ridley - Co-Chair

Beatrix Schlarb-Ridley – Co-Chair

Beatrix is Director of Innovation and Impact at BAS, and Enterprise Champion at the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of Cambridge. She studied Biochemistry in Germany and then moved to Cambridge, where she obtained her MPhil and PhD in photosynthesis research.

A plant biochemist by background with 20 years experience, Beatrix’s focus is on unlocking the potential of research for the benefit of society. Her particular expertise lies in developing algal technologies for commercial use in the areas of food and feed, platform chemicals, bioremediation and energy.

This is achieved through partnership in the InCrops Enterprise Hub, the INTERREG NW Europe Strategic Initiative ‘EnAlgae’, and strategic initiatives such as the development of an Innovation Centre at BAS.  She has authored the BBSRC scoping study ‘Algal Research in the UK’ in 2011, is senior author of the NERC-TSB ‘UK Roadmap for Algal Technologies’, and has gained real-life experience of the challenges associated with commercialisation through involvement in a spin-out company developing algae- and moss-based biophotovoltaic devices.


Postdoctoral Research Associate, Swansea University

Reader in Metabolic Engineering, Imperial College London

Chancellor’s Fellow, The University of Edinburgh

Postdoctoral Research Associate, University of Cambridge

CEO, Industrial Phycology

Lecturer in Bioengineering, University of Sheffield

Scientific Director, Algenuity


Previous Management Board members

Knowledge Transfer Manager, Knowledge Transfer Network

IBCarb Network Manager, University of Manchester
Former PHYCONET Management Board Chair, bioenergy and industrial biotechnology consultant and honorary Professor in Sustainable Bioenergy at the University of Nottingham.
Associate Professor in Applied Aquatic Biosciences, Swansea University
Bioprocess engineer, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology
Professor in Biotechnology, University of Kent
Environmental & Research Consultant, Sweet Environmental Consultants
Reader in Systems Power & Energy, University of Glasgow

Phyconet News

  • December 20, 2018

    The PHYCONET December 2018 newsletter is now available. This is our last newsletter, as the funding for the PHYCONET network finishes on 31st December. If you would like to be updated about the new Algae-UK network starting in early 2019, please email

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  • November 10, 2018

    Our final annual conference was held at the Wesley Hotel in London on 8-9 November. Attended by 75 delegates, the meeting included presentations from awardees of our various funding schemes – Proof of Concept, Business Interaction Vouchers and IB Seeding

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  • November 8, 2018

    BBSRC has announced, with the support of EPSRC, that £11M is to be committed to funding six Phase II Networks in Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy (NIBB), and we are delighted that the application submitted by PHYCONET Director Saul Purton, “Algae-UK:

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