Research & Innovation - Participant Portal

TOPIC : Pre-treatment of lignocellulose with simultaneous removal of contaminants and separation of lignin and cellulosic fractions

Topic identifier: BBI.VC1.R2-2015
Publication date: 25 August 2015

Types of action: BBI-RIA Bio-based Industries Research and Innovation action
Opening date:
25 August 2015
Deadline: 03 December 2015 17:00:00

Time Zone : (Brussels time)
  Horizon 2020
Topic Description
Specific Challenge:

Pre-treatment of lignocellulosic biomass is a crucial, although often overlooked step in processing: an optimised pre-treatment can increase productivity and reduce costs of subsequent processing stages. The quality of lignocellulosic feedstock is variable, both in terms of composition (i.e. sugar/lignin content) and in terms of presence of contaminants derived from e.g. the cultivation phase, harvest, previous applications of the feedstock, etc. Currently, the removal of contaminants and the separation between lignin and cellulose fractions are performed separately, with high cost for energy intensive pre-treatments and the generation of significant amounts of waste. Simultaneous pre-treatment and removal of contaminants today only exist on small scale by cocktails of fungi and enzymes on specific feedstock.

Release of degradation products is also common in the pre-treatment phase, during the breakdown of lignin. Presence of contaminants in the input biomass has repercussions on the final product (especially when dealing with food/feed ingredients, packaging or other consumer products). Many of such contaminants and degradation products are also known inhibitors of fermentative processes, with negative effects on the process yield and overall profitability. The challenge is to tackle these issues while significantly improving efficiency and reducing cost and energy usage. Resolving this challenge will remove a significant hurdle in enlarging the portfolio of biomass suitable for processing into feedstock.


Develop a pre-treatment process that simultaneously performs the removal of contaminants and inhibitors arising from the separation of lignin and sugar fractions yielding a contaminant-free feedstock for subsequent processes. Proposals should aim for cost-efficient solutions that are able to simultaneously break down lignin and degrade contaminants. Proposals should assess the impact of the developed processes on the environmental, social and economic performance of the whole value chain, including consumer products and demonstrating safety benefits. Efficient ways to secure and manage safety issues using hazard assessment at critical control points, feeding into the regulatory framework, need to be addressed. Other elements can include savings in terms of time, additional compounds used and energy. A key aspect to be addressed is the balance between degradation of the pollutants and inhibitory products, and maximizing the yield of fermentable sugars from biomass, without compromising the downstream process of fermentation. A life-cycle assessment should be carried out in order to evaluate the environmental and socio-economic performance of the developed technologies. A credible path to move forward from the research phase towards the commercialisation of the results should be presented. Strong weight will be put on industrial leadership to fully exploit of the developed pre-treatment processes.

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.

Expected Impact:
  • Developing efficient and integrated pre-treatment processes leading to a tangible reduction of investment and operating costs over the biomass to bio-product conversion.
  • Delivering fermentable sugars of suitable quality for further conversion (e.g. advanced biochemicals). The fermentable sugars must be competitive with available sugars from current markets. The pre-treatment yield of sugars should be over 80%.
  • Reducing GHG emission by at least 30% over the whole value chain of the targeted products as compared to conventional ones.
  • Removal of contaminants by >98%.
  • Increased consumer safety thanks to improved removal of contaminants in products.
  • Reduction in environmental impact thanks to lower energy consumption, lower waste generation.
  • Contributing to reinforcing cooperation along the value chain from feedstock suppliers (e.g. farmers, land and forest owners) to technology providers and end-users.
  • Enabling the mobilisation and conversion of lignocellulosic feedstock into cost-competitive bio-based chemicals and materials. Enabling competitiveness of relevant lignocellulosic-based biorefinery concept(s).
Topic conditions and documents

Please read carefully all provisions below before the preparation of your application.

1. List of countries and applicable rules for funding: described in part A of the General Annexes of the General Work Programme.

2. Eligibility and admissibility conditions: described in part B andC of the General Annexes of the General Work Programme.

3. Evaluation

3.1 Evaluation criteria and procedure, scoring and threshold: described in part H of the General Annexes of the General Work Programme, with the exceptions described in part 3.5.7 of the BBI JU Annual Work Plan 2015.

3.2 Guide to the submission and evaluation process and the BBI JU Calls 2015 - Guide for applicants.

4. Proposal page limits and layout:
Please refer to Part B of the standard proposal template.

5. Indicative timetable for evaluation and grant agreement:

Information on the evaluation outcome: maximum 5 months after the proposal submission deadline.
Signature of grant agreements: maximum 8 months after the proposal submission deadline.

6. Provisions, proposal templates and evaluation forms for the type(s) of action(s) under this topic:

Specific provisions and funding rates: described in part 3.5.5 of the BBI JU Annual Work Plan 2015

7. Additional provisions:

Technology readiness levels (TRL): described in Part G of the General Annexes to the EC Work Programme.

8. Open access must be granted to all scientific publications resulting from Horizon 2020 actions, and proposals must refer to measures envisaged. Where relevant, proposals should also provide information on how the participants will manage the research data generated and/or collected during the project, such as details on what types of data the project will generate, whether and how this data will be exploited or made accessible for verification and re-use, and how it will be curated and preserved.

9. JTIs additional documents

BBI JU Work Plan 2015
BBI JU Scientific Innovation and Research Agenda (SIRA)
Horizon 2020 Rules for participation
BBI JU Derogation to H2020 Rules for Participation
BBI JU Regulation of establishment


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