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Exploiting extremophiles and extremozymes to broaden the processing conditions to convert biomass into high-value building blocks - BBI.2017.R3
Deadline: Sep 7, 2017  

 Low-Carbon Technology
 Natural Resources
 Renewable Energy
 Aerospace Technology

Specific Challenge:

Extremophilic microorganisms can survive and perform under extreme conditions of temperature (thermophiles and psychrophiles), pressure (barophiles), pH (acidophiles, alkalophiles), salinity (halophiles) or a combination of these (complex extremo­philes). The potential role of this kind of microorganisms in biotechnological and industrial applications is increasingly attracting attention. The utilisation of extremophilic microorganisms and/or of related extremophilic enzymes can support a significant increase in process performance by widening operational conditions and developing new processes and/or products. Moreover, it can enable the treatment of (residual) streams featuring extreme conditions that currently cannot be processed or require expensive pre-treatments.

The specific challenge is to develop sustainable processes in a wider range of operating conditions (pressure, temperature, acidity, etc.) by using extremophilic microorganisms and/or related enzymes to convert biomass into valuable components at high process yields. Successfully carrying out such processes at pilot scale can provide insight into the potential for these microorganisms at an industrial scale.


Validate at pilot scale in an industrially relevant environment innovative processes that use extremophiles or extremozymes for the efficient conversion of biomass into useable chemical building blocks.

Proposals should address one or all of the following items:

  • adaptation and selection of naturally occurring extremophiles;
  • engineering of organisms to suit extreme working conditions or achieve specific performance targets;
  • identification of specific extremozymes with high industrial potential for increasing process yields.

The industry should actively participate to prove the potential for integrating the developed concepts into current industrial landscapes or existing plants so that deployment of the concepts can be accelerated and scaled up to an industrial level.

Proposals should specifically demonstrate the benefits versus the state-of-the-art and existing technologies. This could be done by providing evidence of new processing solutions and new products obtained.

The Technology Readiness Level (TRL)1 at the end of the project should be 52. Proposals should clearly state the starting TRL. The proposed work should enable the technology to achieve TRL 5 within the timeframe of the project.

Proposals should include an environmental assessment using Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methodologies, and a cost analysis. Proposals should also include a viability performance check of the developed process(es) based on available standards, certification, accepted and validated approaches.

Proposals should seek complementarity with the projects funded under earlier topics (and in other programmes) to avoid overlap and promote synergies.

Indicative funding: It is considered that proposals requesting a contribution of EUR 2 million to maximally EUR 5 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude the submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

1 Technology Readiness Levels as defined in annex G of the General Annexes to the Horizon 2020 Work Programme:

2 TRL 5 requires that the technology be ‘validated in [a] relevant environment (industrially relevant environment in the case of key enabling technologies).’ For industry, this means at ‘pilot scale’ (meaning beyond and larger than ‘at lab scale’), preferably at an industrial site.

Expected Impact:
  • contribute to KPI 1: create at least 1 new cross-sector interconnection in bio-based economy clusters;
  • contribute to KPI 2: set the basis for at least 1 new bio-based value chain;
  • improve process yields (weight of product obtained per dry weight of feedstock fed into the process) in the target building blocks by at least 20 % compared with benchmark processes for similar feedstock;
  • improve the process efficiency compared with benchmark processes by avoiding or reducing additional steps like cooling or neutralisation to arrive at required operational conditions;
  • overall reduction of at least 10 % in the carbon footprint of the considered bio-based operation compared with the state-of-the-art (shown by an LCA taken up in one of the work packages).
Cross-cutting Priorities:

Cross-cutting Key-Enabling Technologies (KETs)
Socio-economic science and humanities

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