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Fermentation processes to obtain biosurfactants and specialty carbohydrates from agricultural and agro-industrial streams

Specific challenge: Several hurdles hamper the full exploitation of two types of specialty biochemicals with high market interest, i.e. biosurfactants and specialty carbohydrates. On the one hand, suboptimal production methods result in large price fluctuations of the specialty carbohydrates currently in the market thus limiting their use to high-end applications (e.g. pharma and cosmetics). On the other hand, the few existing production methods for bio-based (glycolipid) surfactants rely mainly on the synthesis power of natural (wildtype) micro-organisms thus limiting the required product diversity to penetrate a large-scale market. Fermentation processes offer potential for overcoming these hurdles and for being an efficient, scaleable and cost-competive alternative for the production of these specialty biochemicals.

Scope: Development of cost-efficient and sustainable fermentation processes to obtain tailor-made biosurfactants and specialty carbohydrates from agricultural and agro-industrial streams. Proposals should address (i) improvement ofthe methods for metabolic engineering of the production strain; (ii) improvement of the flexibility of the process with view to widen the range of attainable biosurfactants; (iii) scale-up and improvement of fermentation and downstream processing with view to reducing processing time and costs. A life-cycle assessment should be carried out in order to evaluate the environmental and socio-economic performance of the developed technologies. The feasibility of integrating the proposed concept into existing industrial processing chains should be assessed. Proposal will consider potential standardisation related activities expected to facilitate the market uptake of the developed products.

It is considered that proposals with a total eligible budget of at least EUR 2 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals with another budget.

Expected impact:

         Improving fermentation technologies enabling higher added value to agricultural and agro-industrial streams that are currently used in low-value application, resulting in a cascading beneficial effect for the whole value chain.

         Reducing by (20-fold) in price range of speciality carbohydrates and increase of the supply from the kg scale to the hundreds of tons scale, leading to a broadened portfolio of potential applications beyond the current high-end ones.

         Improving significantly the flexibility, productivity and environmental performance of biosurfactants/specialty biochemicals industrial processes.

Contributing towards the replacement of 5-10% fossil-based surfactants with biosurfactants.