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Apply advanced biotechnologies to convert biomass that contains inhibitors into high value-added chemicals and materials


Identify, isolate, where applicable engineer, and use inhibitor-resistant microorganisms, and set up the subsequent fermentation processes at lab scale to create added-value products.

This topic includes any operation that uses agriculture-based, forest-based, aquatic/marine-based or bio-waste feedstock to convert it into marketable products. This topic excludes any fossil-based operations and CO2-feedstock. It also excludes any proposal that targets biofuels as the major or sole marketable products.

The scope specifically covers early-stage development proposals, the aim being to lay the groundwork for new technologies converting biomass into added-value products. Several biotechnological approaches may be used that are new or currently not widely used in biorefining operations producing chemicals and materials, including ’omics’, metabolic engineering and synthetic biology.

Proposals should commit to assessing the environmental impacts of the developed processes or products using LCA methodologies based on available standards, certification, accepted and validated approaches (see introduction – section 2.2.5 - published in the BBI JU AWP 2018) 1

Proposals should also include an economic viability performance check (value chain and market analysis) of the developed products and processes, along with an analysis of social impacts where applicable.

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) 2 at the end of the project should be at least 3 for the bio-based value chain in question. Proposals should clearly state the starting TRL, which may be as low as 1 or 2.

The scope aims at assisting industry to further explore promising technologies to broaden and strengthen the bio-based industries in Europe.

Indicative funding:

It is considered that proposals requesting a BBI JU contribution of between EUR 1 million and EUR 2,5 million would allow the specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. However, this does not preclude the submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

To be eligible for participation a consortium must contain at least one constituent entity of the Bio-based Industry Consortium not eligible for JU funding according to Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) No 623/2014.

1 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. See also in the introduction.

2 Technology readiness levels as defined in annex G of the General Annexes to the Horizon 2020 Work Programme: 2020/annexes/h2020-wp1820-annex-ga_en.pdf

Residual streams from various bio-based operations contain, among others, low-molecular compounds that severely inhibit the growth of the currently known fermenting microorganisms. As a result, the yields and quality of the desired products are too low for a successful, large-scale application of fermentation pathways to valorise these residual streams. To solve these problems, microbes must be adapted to enable the desired conversion steps.

However, there are microorganisms that are resistant to inhibitors and can perform the desired conversion steps in inhibitor-containing streams. Using omics and other techniques to identify and isolate these microorganisms could lead to new systems producing value-added products through fermentation. Their performance may be further improved through metabolic engineering or any other advanced, new biotechnology in this field.

The specific challenge of this topic is to better exploit microorganisms that are resistant to inhibitors.

  • increase opportunities for an efficient valorisation of residual streams from different sources;
  • achieve a smaller environmental footprint and costs than those of existing pre-treatments to remove inhibitor compounds.

Expected duration: 1 to 4 years.

Type of action: Research and innovation action.

The conditions related to this topic are provided in the chapter 2.3.3 of the BBI JU AWP 2018.