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New biotechnologies for environmental remediation (RIA)


Proposals should include research and innovation for efficient and low cost remediation strategies using microorganisms by means of (bio-)electrochemical systems, or alternate systems that require minimum or zero external energy or chemicals. The work should ensure that an acceptable performance for field applications can be attained. Remediation should cover hydrocarbons and their derivatives, metals, nutrients, antibiotics or micropollutants. Moreover, the system developed should remove different contaminants, including complex mixtures, the remediation time should be accelerated and it should work with mixed microbial communities.

This topic is part of the EU-China flagship initiative on Biotechnology for Environment and Human Health, which will promote substantial coordinated and balanced research and Innovation cooperation between the EU and China. China-based participants have the possibility to apply for funding under the Chinese co-funding mechanism and other Chinese sources[[]].

Activities should start at TRL 3 and achieve TRL 5 at the end of the project.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU up to EUR 5 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

Contamination of soils, sediments, ground and surface water caused by waste resulting from human action and leakage into water sources is a serious problem. This pollution contains compounds having toxicity and durability which creates important concerns from the health and environmental viewpoints. Moreover, it represents a significant economic burden for society.

In some standard remediation strategies, for example burying polluted soils in landfills, pollutants are not destroyed and the problem is merely postponed. Chemical remediation and the disposal of contaminated waste increase the health risk for workers. Bioremediation, which uses naturally occurring microorganisms, is a more sustainable and gentle alternative to physicochemical options.

Microorganisms have developed countless strategies to depollute their environment and to transform harmful environmental contaminants into harmless end products. However, the effectiveness of bioremediation faces a number of challenges, for instance the concentration of the contaminant, the combined biological activity of the microbial community over time and space and the consumption of energy.

  • Remediation of at least two toxic contaminants;
  • Proof of the feasibility of scaling up the technology for field testing, including an assessment of the related environmental benefits and risks;
  • A demonstration of the benefits over standard physicochemical remediation approaches, including energy efficiency.