Proposals should focus on demonstration projects that will scale-up the production and harvesting of integrated marine algae products and bring them nearer to the market in an economically, environmentally and socially sustainable manner. Although the focus is on algae that grow in salt water, fresh water algae may be part of the work as well. The work should build on existing or new marine and maritime technologies. Proposals should address key challenges for scaling up integrated algae production systems, for example higher yielding algae species, optimised operation conditions and energy saving, limited contaminants, recycled nutrients and water, optimal CO2 use, storage and preservation of harvests before treatment, etc. Proposals should adopt a holistic, life-cycle approach and assess the broader environmental impact, for example from investigating the conditions for the access to sites, up to reducing the impact on the environment and improving education and skills in these sectors. Stakeholder engagement across the value chain, environmental and social acceptance should also be investigated, with the involvement of representatives of the coastal communities concerned.
The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of up to EUR 11 million would allow this challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude the submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.
In a context of growing demand for resources and competition for land use, sustainably capturing the potential of seas and oceans is critical for the European Union. New markets, services and products will only arise from innovative, resource-efficient and integrated approaches which cut across economic sectors such as marine biomass integrated bio-refineries. Despite the large potential of products derived from algae, implementation is still limited mainly due to unfavourable economics. At present, microalgae are being applied in a limited volume (< 10 000 tonnes dry weight/year) in various niche markets (including food supplements) and macroalgae mass production is facing several challenges including the lack of space to further expand. To reach broader economic viability, costs of algal biomass production need to be reduced and the scale of production needs to be increased significantly. Even when the price of biomass production is reduced, algal biomass needs to be refined into multiple products in order to increase its total value and achieve economic feasibility. An integrated biorefinery concept of macro- or micro-algae and higher value bulk or speciality products can lead to economically feasible and environmentally sustainable processes. Thus, cost reductions in biomass production and harvesting in a sustainable way are essential for the further development and scale-up of the algal bioeconomy sector.
In the context of the seas and oceans to optimise algae mass production and secure the sustainable development of integrated bio-refineries, proposals will:
- Develop marine innovation by de-risking investments and demonstrating the technical and economic feasibility of environmentally sustainable large-scale algae biomass production for biorefineries producing a range of value-added products.
- Bring to the market new, cost-effective and environmentally friendly technologies and production systems.
- Increase stakeholder engagement in and societal acceptance of sustainable algal biomass production.
- Enhance the competitiveness of European industry by supporting new jobs, growth and investment while ensuring environmental sustainability and a low environmental impact.
- Improve the professional skills and competences of those working and being trained to work within the blue economy.