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Proteins from alternative and unconventional sources

The growing world population requires an increase in affordable protein supply. However, this cannot be realised by depleting limited natural resources (land, water, nutrients[[Nutrients can come from natural sources but are not a natural resource per se.]], etc.), which are already under strong pressure globally and in the EU. Today’s largest source of protein for human consumption is based on farm animals, which often involve multiple sustainability issues. Moreover, low-grade or speciality proteins not suitable for food or feed applications could serve as feedstock for the bio-based industry. However, the extraction and purification of such streams are difficult, especially from unconventional sources.

Proposals under this topic should:

  • Develop and test available and upcoming potentially disruptive technologies[[Including physico/chemical technologies and biotechnologies]] to produce proteins from unconventional sources (e.g. proteins derived from plants, agro-food by-products, fungi[[Including filamentous fungi and yeasts]], microorganisms, algae[[Including micro- and macroalgae (seaweeds)]], protein-enriched fermentations, or invertebrates, including terrestrial (e.g. insects) or marine, with the potential for scale-up and deployment across Europe, enabling the production of bulk proteins for food and feed applications.
  • Identify, mobilise, and extract proteins from sustainable alternative biomass sources.
  • If necessary, functionalise the proteins for the intended use, also considering the application of specific emerging processing treatments for this aim. When targeting food and feed applications, health and safety regulations need to be duly considered, as well as solubility, functionality, bioactivity, consumer organoleptic experience, e.g. texture and taste (for food), bioactivity, functionality, nutritional requirements, digestibility and appetence (for feed). When targeting non-food applications, proposals must demonstrate that the intended use is not conflicting with food chain.
  • For any use, and to increase economic value, the proposals should aim at novel and/or improved properties (e.g. nutritional profile, improved digestibility, nutraceutical properties), as well as full valorisation of biomass (extraction of microelements, vitamins, secondary metabolites, colorants, antimicrobials etc.), enabling industrial symbiosis[[for a description of the term, see annex Glossary in the CBE JU Annual Work Programme 2022 (https://www.cbe.europa.eu/reference-documents)]].
  • Apply and/or adapt existing/mature or novel digital technologies if they are instrumental to achieving the project’s outcomes and scope. Applications of digital technologies that should be considered in the scope are among the following areas: i) chemicals, materials and process design & modelling ii) process monitoring and optimisation and iii) data analytics and data management of the production of alternative proteins in the scope.
  • Disseminate the outputs and learning outcomes from the project in order to increase the public awareness, and awareness of relevant industry actors, of potential benefits of bio-based solutions and raise awareness on opportunities to be addressed.
  • Benefit from high potential of bio-based innovation, seeking cross-sectorial solutions, and complementarities to the projects under BBI JU[[E.g. projects FARMYNG, PLENITUDE etc.]], Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe.

Depending on the chosen source, the projects may propose necessary technical options for sustainable intensification of production, e.g. development of new varieties, and/or cultivation practice, in line with all relevant legal EU and national frameworks, to enable future scale-up[[See also a parallel topic HORIZON-JU-CBE-2022-IAFlag-02 Alternative sources for high added value food and/or feed ingredients.]]. Environmental side-benefits should be duly considered, if relevant, e.g. carbon storage potentials, soil health etc.

Proposals must implement the multi-actor approach and ensure adequate involvement of all key actors in the value chains relevant for this topic, such as primary producers, in the bio-based systems. Please see the section Additional requirements in the CBE JU Annual Work Programme 2022[[https://www.cbe.europa.eu/reference-documents]] for more details.