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Biomass production on unused land for conversion into added-value products while boosting rural and industrial development
Deadline: Sep 8, 2016  

 Rural Development
 Capacity Building
 Agricultural Biotechnology
 Horizon Europe
 Climate Sciences

Topic Description

Specific Challenge:

Europe has substantial unused land. Some of this land is in this condition because of its inherent characteristics (difficult access, location, soil composition, climate). Other parts have once been profitable as farm land or otherwise, and now are abandoned as a result of overexploitation, pollution, climate change and/or exodus from rural areas.

The challenge is to put unused land back into production by cultivating dedicated industrial and forestry crops and their conversion into added-value products for identified applications. The challenge also includes establishing required logistics to ensure the supply of these crops to biorefineries, providing for a sustainable operation with minimal losses within the value chain.

Proposals should clearly show that there is no overlap with ongoing large scale initiatives such as the Flagship project FIRST2RUN funded under the AWP2014 call, rather showing complementarity in terms of feedstock, land and climate conditions, products, market and replication potential in Europe. Where necessary, actions need to compare with ongoing programmes in Horizon 2020 addressing Rural Renaissance to seek synergies with other projects in this field.


Demonstrate the technical, economical and sustainable viability of the full system of converting dedicated industrial crops, cultivated on unused lands, into added-value products.

Proposals should identify the most suitable crop varieties for the selected environment, and implement sustainable agronomic practices to ensure long term land profitability. Proposals could also contain remediation actions for marginal or contaminated soils in order to convert or return these lands to use for agricultural purposes.

Proposals should not only include the (physical) identification of potentially available lands and the subject dedicated crops, but also the required logistics (handling, storage, transportation, etc.) for a sustainable delivery of feedstock at a biorefinery. Proposals should demonstrate that the quality of the biorefinery feedstock meets requirements for its further processing and conversion into added-value marketable products for application in specific end-market sectors.

Proposals thus cover the value chain up to the gates of a typical biorefinery and allow the implementation of a ‘land-integrated biorefinery’, embedding the supply chain within the total value chain and involving different partners in several sectors (feedstock suppliers, industrial players, end-customers, etc.).

Proposals should seek complementarity with activities funded under European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF), for example with those related to biorefining or novel sources of biomass feedstocks, or bioeconomy capacity building.

Proposals include participation of all the different actors within the value chain contributing with their knowledge of the economical, technical and environmental aspects and opportunities associated with the implementation of circular economy.

Proposals should achieve technology demonstrated in an industrial environment, or a system prototype demonstration in operational environment. Proposals need to address the whole value chain, from feedstock sourcing to market applications (Technology Readiness Levels 6-7).

Proposals should also include a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) in order to evaluate the environmental and socio-economic performance of the whole value chain. Especially, environmental considerations should be addressed when choosing marginal lands to be cultivated (such as conservation of biodiversity and continuity in the provision of ecosystem services).

It is considered that proposals with a total eligible budget of up to EUR 15 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals with another budget.

Expected Impact:

  • Turn at least 2000 hectare of current marginal lands into cultivated lands.
  • Diversification and increase of farmers'/forest owners' revenues through access to new markets, and/or creation of new primary agricultural jobs.
  • Safety, quality and purity of the (new) products are in line with EU legislation and have been proven to meet end-market requirements in order to facilitate future market access and commercialisation.
  • Creation of new green jobs in rural areas.
  • Documented evidence from biorefinery investors in building industrial assets near the new feedstock supply.
  • Validated suitability of the feedstock for the production of at least 1 new building block based on biomass of European origin validated at demonstration scale (KPI 4), and/or at least 2 new bio-based materials (KPI 5) for identified market applications.
  • Contribution to other BBI JU Key Performance Indicators (KPI), specifically:
    • Creation of at least 1 new cross-sectorial interconnection in bio-based economy clusters (KPI 1), at least 1 new bio-based value chains (KPI 2) and at least 3 new cooperation projects involving farmers, industrial stakeholders and end-users (KPI 3).

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