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Large-scale production of proteins for food and feed applications from alternative, sustainable sources


Successfully operate a large-scale, first-of-its-kind bio-based value chain producing sustainable, safe food- and/or feed-grade proteins sourced from alternative, sustainable sources, such as residual streams from agriculture, other biomass production and related residual streams (like aquaculture, fisheries, or seaweed), or food industry side streams, through a cascading approach where applicable1.

Proposals should include the whole value chain from the feedstock supply to processing and production steps for the targeted high added-value products. All relevant technologies in the different steps are applicable, provided they have been already proven at a significant scale (preferably demonstration levels TRLs 6-7, but at least pilot plant level TRL 5).

Proposals should focus primarily on proteins for food and feed applications. However, proposals could also consider functional proteins and other applications that may make it possible to generate new incomes and hence increase the overall sustainability of the value chains. Proposals should include extra valorisation steps through an integrated biorefinery setup.

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.

Proposals need to take into account legislative limitations over the origin of the biomass feedstock when dealing with proteins for human or livestock nutrition. Proposals should include an assessment on safety, quality and purity for the target products, comparing them with the current (imported) proteins used for the same applications and end-products.

Proposals should also provide sound business case and business plan showing that sustainably produced feedstock streams are available in Europe, allowing to increase protein production in Europe and to reduce the imports of protein-rich products.

Proposals should specifically demonstrate the benefits versus the state-of-the-art and existing technologies. This could be done by providing evidence of new processing solutions and new products obtained. Proposals should demonstrate the techno-economic feasibility of the large-scale deployment of sustainable and efficient European value chains for proteins production.

Proposals should include a full assessment of the environmental, economic and social impacts of the developed products or processes, using LCSA methodologies based on available standards, certification, accepted and validated approaches (see also introduction – section 2.2.5 - published in the BBI JU AWP 2018).

Any potential hazards associated with the developed processes and products should be analysed to ensure that the products comply fully with REACH2legislation and other toxicity requirements, safety requirements and any relevant EU legislation.

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)3 at the end of the project should be 8. Proposals should clearly state the starting TRL. The proposed work should enable the technology to achieve TRL 8 within the timeframe of the project.

Indicative funding:

It is considered that proposals requesting a maximum contribution of EUR 21 million would be able to address this specific challenge appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude the submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

1 For a Research and Innovation Action on proteins see Topic BBI 2017.R4.

2 The Regulation for Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals, effective since 1 June 2007

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

The worldwide demand for protein is progressively expanding due to strong growth in the world’s population. Improvements in the standard of living in large parts of the world are adding to the protein demand1. Forecasts to 2050 show that current protein availability will not be sufficient to meet protein demand for food purposes. At the same time, Europe is highly dependent on imports of protein-rich material for feeding livestock: About 70 % of the total amount required is imported. Already 60-70 % of global arable land is used for animal feed to meet animal protein demand.

Consequently, the exploitation of new protein sources is necessary to meet the worldwide demand. European crops, together with residues and co-products from primary biomass cultivation, are valuable sources of proteins. Residues from animal processing, fisheries, aquaculture and algae industries also offer a potential, albeit currently underexploited, source of proteins. The bio-based industry could help to expand the production of protein-rich ingredients by valorising existing alternative sources from food/feed value chains and by taking full advantage of the successes of earlier (and ongoing) R&D and small-scale industrial operations2.

The specific challenge is to increase the availability of sustainable, safe proteins sourced from alternative, sustainable sources.


2 Two projects on algae biorefineries have been selected in Call 2016 of Horizon 2020 Societal Challenge 2: Genialg ( and Sabana (

  • contribute to KPI 1: create at least two new cross-sector interconnections in bio-based economy;
  • contribute to KPI 2: set the basis for at least two new bio-based value chains;
  • contribute to KPI 6: create at least two new ‘consumer’ products produced from bio-based chemicals and materials;
  • reduce the carbon footprint of the considered bio-based operation by at least 20 % compared with the existing protein.

Type of action: Innovation action – flagship action.