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Improve fermentation processes (including downstream purification) to final bio-based products

 

Fermentation of bio-based feedstock is powerful but often still cost-intensive and resource-intensive process. This is mainly due to costly enzymes, low process yields, high by-product toxicity, poor microorganism growth, high nutrient requirements but also inefficiencies in downstream purification. Moreover, most used biocatalysts are optimised for converting conventional sugars and are less effective (or unable) to deal with second generation and non-food quality sugars, thus preventing the exploitation of additional sources of biomass feedstock. Solving all these issues may require the development of new metabolic pathways and the scale-up of related processes to industrially relevant scale. In addition, the presence of by-products often requires complex and expensive downstream purification processes, especially when the desired end products are non-volatile. This aspect adds to the complexity and cost of the process and needs to be optimised as well.

Proposals under this topic should:

  • Specify and justify the choice of one or more sustainable feedstock types to be valorised via optimised, scaled up fermentation processes, and the targeted bio-based products. With regards to the targeted bio-based products, non-volatile as well as thermally and/or chemically unstable compounds, presenting higher downstream purification constraints, should be in the scope.
  • Demonstrate improved process design strategies to solve previously identified bottlenecks in industrially relevant fermentation processes considering both upstream and downstream steps. The proposed strategies can consider biocatalyst(s) optimisation, reactor design, process design innovation but also process agents (e.g. solvents) innovation. Address fermentation processes productivity (yield, titre, selectivity) as well as cost-, resource- and energy-efficiency in view of further scale-up to commercial level;
  • Ensure the improvement of the energy and resource efficiency of downstream purification strategies for obtaining the end products in scope, thus also enabling cost-effective production, in particular when dealing with non-volatile or chemically/thermally unstable products.
  • Target end products with tangible market applications and ensure that the products meet market and regulatory requirements (e.g. in terms of consumers safety and Health, Safety and Environment (HS&E))
  • Include a task to integrate assessment based on the safe-and-sustainable-by-design (SSbD) framework, developed by the European Commission, for assessing the safety and sustainability of chemicals and materials[[See documents defining the framework and criteria on: https://ec.europa.eu/info/research-and-innovation/research-area/industrial-research-and-innovation/key-enabling-technologies/advanced-materials-and-chemicals_en.]]. Under this context, projects are expected to contribute with and develop recommendations that can advance further the application of the SSbD framework[[More specifically, provide thresholds that can support the criteria definition and improvements for the assessment SSbD methodologies, including any specificities related with bio-based surfactants. Recommendations should also include identification of data gaps, especially safety, environmental, but also socio-economic factors, as well as priorities for data collection.]].
  • Analyse and prove techno-economic feasibility as well as commercial viability of further scaling up the process to commercial scale.

Proposals must implement the multi-actor approach and demonstrate the involvement of all concerned key actors, such as the processing industry, end users and brand owners.

Proposals should also describe their contribution to the Specific CBE JU requirements, presented in section 2.2.3.1 and the cross-cutting elements, highlighted in section 2.2.3.2 of the CBE JU Annual Work Programme 2023[[CBE JU Annual Work Programme 2023 (https://www.cbe.europa.eu/reference-documents)]].

Where relevant, proposals should seek links with and capitalise on the results of past and ongoing EU funded projects[[For example iFermenter, CARBOSURF, US4GREENCHEM (RIA under BBI), DEMETER, REDWine, INGREEN (IA under BBI). See also HORIZON-JU-CBE-2023-IA-05 “Development of scalable safe bio-based surfactants, with an improved sustainability profile” and HORIZON-JU-CBE-2023-IA-06 “Selective, sustainable production routes towards bio-based alternatives to fossil-based chemical building blocks”. Moreover, projects from Horizon Europe Cluster 4 and Processes4Planet should be considered.]].