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Valorise sugars from the cellulosic and/or hemicellulosic fractions of lignocellulosic biomass


Demonstrate innovative technologies and systems that can valorise sugars from hemicellulose and/or diluted or low-purity glucose streams from cellulose.

Proposals may apply biotechnological or non-biotechnological processes, or a combination thereof.

Proposals may target:

  • purified / concentrated sugars from hemicellulose; or
  • glucose from cellulose ‘as is’; or
  • separated hemicellulose ‘as is’; or
  • sugars or acids after hydrolysis and ‘as is’; or
  • fermentation or chemical catalysis of the hemicellulose’s sugars into intermediate products.

Depending on the selected routes, proposals may include purification steps.

This topic covers lignocellulosic feedstock from any suitable and sustainable source. Proposals should demonstrate sufficient availability of usable feedstock throughout the year, while applying the cascading use of biomass where relevant for maximum resource efficiency.

Proposals should justify the choice of feedstock (wood types and species), molecules and processing method based on the projected market requirements and value of the end-products. Proposals should ensure the sustainability of the route from lignocellulose to sugars, which should be compared to alternatives (such as sugar from crops). Proposals should demonstrate the marketability of the end-products. Proposals should aim at maximising the percentage, in weight, of valorised feedstock, preferably covering more than one component and more than one product.

This topic excludes: (1) the conversion of lignocellulosic feedstock into ethanol1; and (2) the pre-treatment and separation of lignocellulosic feedstock2.

Proposals should address the elimination of hurdles and bottlenecks regarding the logistics, transport modes and associated infrastructure in the targeted biomass feedstock supply systems. These include collection systems, intermediate storage and safety aspects (see Introduction - section 2.2.5 - published in the BBI JU AWP 2018).

Proposals should be based on a sound business case and business plan.

Proposals should commit to assessing the environmental and economic impacts of the developed products or processes, using LCA methodologies based on available standards, certification, accepted and validated approaches (see also introduction – section 2.2.5 - published in the BBI JU AWP 2018)3. If applicable, proposals should also analyse the social impacts.

If relevant, proposals should also allow for pre- and co-normative research necessary for developing the needed product quality standards.

The technology readiness level (TRL)4 at the end of the project should be 6-7. Proposals should clearly state the starting TRL.

Indicative funding:

It is considered that proposals requesting a maximum contribution EUR 7 million would be able to address this specific challenge appropriately. However, this does not preclude the submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

1 Covered by projects LIGNOFLAG ( and BIOSKOH (

2 Covered by a project selected from topic BBI 2017.R2.

3 The LCA may focus on a set of critical issues early on to steer the development process in the right direction. In this case, it is essential that this selection is carefully explained in the proposal in order to allow for expert assessment.

4 Technology readiness levels as defined in annex G of the General Annexes to the Horizon 2020 Work Programme:

The use of lignocellulosic feedstock to produce chemicals and materials for commercially viable applications usually focuses on valorising cellulose.

Current processes that use hydrolysis to convert carbohydrate chains into sugars mostly focus on glucose from cellulose for further processing, leaving the other sugars in hemicellulose unused. These include potentially valuable monomers such as xylose, mannose, galactose, arabinose and rhamnose. They could be used either directly, or fermented into compounds for high-value products. Valorising these co-products into specialty sugars or high-value products can significantly increase a biorefinery’s profitability.

Unlike first-generation sugars 1, the sugars derived from lignocellulosic feedstock often suffer from low purity and/or high dilution levels. This makes fermenting these sugars into usable products and materials very difficult. They have less impact on the production of chemicals such as ethanol or other volatile compounds that can be easily purified and concentrated in the downstream processing steps. Several existing technological solutions to convert cellulose via sugar platforms into ethanol will soon be operating on a large scale 2. Other product types (bioplastics or non-volatile compounds, for example) with a complex post-conversion purification process require high-purity sugars.

While a great deal of work is ongoing to valorise lignin 3, valorising the third component of lignocellulose, hemicellulose, presents hurdles that need to be tackled.

The specific challenge of this topic is to better use the sugars from lignocellulosic feedstock in a sustainable way.

1First-generation sugars are produced from edible sources like sugar cane or sugar beet.

2See, for example, BBI projects BIOSKOH ( and LIGNOFLAG (, but also other European or national projects.

3 See, for example, BBI projects SmartLi (, Greenlight ( and Valchem (

  • contribute to KPI 1: create at least one new cross-sector interconnection in bio-based economy;
  • contribute to KPI 2: set the basis for at least one new bio-based value chain;
  • contribute to KPI 6: create at least two new demonstrated consumer products based on bio-based chemicals and materials that meet market requirements;
  • obtain at least a 90 % conversion of glucose into the target products when addressing cellulose;
  • convert at least 30 % in weight of the incoming hemicellulose stream when addressing hemicellulose;
  • widen business and market opportunities associated with the use of lignocellulosic feedstock to obtain high-value products.

Type of action: Innovation action – demonstration action.