Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Develop a consolidated conversion that includes hydrolysis of the pre-treated biomass and the fermentation into bio-chemicals in a single-step. This will require the use of tailored microorganisms that can either be the result of engineering a microbial strain able to obtain a targeted compound to produce specific enzymes-like cellulases and hemi-cellulases, or engineering a microorganism able to disrupt lignocellulose and capable of producing a selected chemical intermediate.

Proposals should validate the developed solution at lab scale, but include indications of feasibility for scale-up and replicability. Proposals should assure complementarity to existing EU-funded projects for synergies and to avoid overlaps. Proposals should target a specific marketable product and can utilise several biomass feedstock to develop a process based on tailored microorganisms’ strains that is able to:

  • produce with high efficiency, enzymes during the production of fermentable sugars from the polysaccharides of the starting lignocellulosic biomass;
  • produce targeted compounds with satisfying results in terms of yields, titres and productivity levels via fermentation and conversion of hexoses and pentoses sugars;
  • resist potential inhibitors mainly coming from the preceding pre-treatment step.

The projects should cover any Technology Readiness Level (TRL) from 3 to 5. In the case of a pilot scale project (TRL 5), proposals should present a credible cost estimate for the proposed processes with a preliminary assessment of their competitiveness when scaled up.

Proposals should also include an environmental and socio-economic assessment, for example with an LCA. In particular, when targeting TRL 5, proposals should include an LCA in order to evaluate the environmental and socio-economic performance of the developed processes.

Proposals should include a cost/benefit analysis, in particular highlighting the economic advantages of avoiding the enzymes production phase.

It is considered that proposals with a total eligible budget in the range of EUR 2-5 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals with another budget.

In recent years, various studies have identified efficiency improvements for the pre-treatment, fermentation and downstream phases of the biorefining processes. However, the relatively high costs for pre-treatment and enzymatic hydrolysis have limited a wide application at industrial levels. In particular, enzymes represent significant capital and operational cost in the operation of most of the biorefineries. There are consolidated bioprocesses that convert pre-treated biomass at lower scales in one step into valuable bio-products without using technical and specific enzymes. For example, there are processes converting pre-treated lignocellulosic biomass directly by using extremely thermophilic, hemi-cellulolytic and cellulolytic microorganisms. The latter are indeed able to grow directly on pre-treated lignocellulose feedstock and convert a broad spectrum of substrates into a significant range of compounds. These are promising results that need to be further improved to allow implementation at industrial scale. The gains in processing costs and production yields offer sufficient room to be competitive with conventional biorefining technologies.

The challenge is to develop a conversion process based on a direct fermentation of the pre-treated biomass into bio-compounds that is competitive in terms of costs and yields with processes that include the separate enzymatic hydrolysis step.

  • Reduction of the costs (capital and operational costs) as compared to two-steps biorefinery processes that include enzymes production and use.
  • Introduction of new routes and technologies for bio-based processes with large potential for rapid scale-up and short time-to-market of the new bio-based products.
  • Development of new microorganisms capable of processing different kinds of feedstock, while ensuring high yields of the targeted products.
  • Higher competitiveness level of the new bio-based value chains as compared to value chains based on two-steps biorefining technologies.
  • Reduction of the upstream costs by 10% of the overall economics of the biorefinery, focusing in particular on the gains from avoiding enzymatic hydrolysis.
  • Contribution to the BBI JU Key Performance Indicators (KPI), specifically:
    • Set the basis for the realisation of new bio-based materials (KPI 5) and for new demonstrated consumer products based on bio-based chemicals and materials (KPI 6), or significantly improve the production process of existing ones.
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