IT is a project that aims to unlock the key to turning food waste into renewable energy.

The University of Southampton will play a leading role in an £18million project that aims to put Britain at the forefront of this technology.

Researchers will explore ways of using leftover food plus natural materials such as plants, algae, fungi and micro-organisms to create energy.

Funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, the study will see the brightest minds from universities across England link up with industry experts to discover how to make use of advances in biotechnology.

The University of Southampton will work with the University of Warwick to realise the potential of organic waste and its by-products to produce renewable energy sources.

What they discover will be shown to industry experts, which will eventually turn the research into commercial ideas.

Professor Charles Banks, head of water and environmental engineering at the University of Southampton and director of the Anaerobic Digestion Network, says: “Anaerobic digestion is an established technology for waste management and bioenergy production, but could benefit hugely through knowledge transfer from recent exciting advances in industrial biotechnology. Bringing academia and industry together will unblock the route to exploiting these advances, allowing UK business to move to the forefront of international development in anaerobic biotechnology.”

Universities and Science Minister David Willetts explained the importance of the new £18million project.

He said: “To get ahead in the global race, we need to turn our world-beating science and research into world-beating products and services.”