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TOPIC : Develop techniques and systems to improve the performance of biocatalysts

Topic identifier: BBI.2018.SO2.R2
Publication date: 11 April 2018

Types of action: BBI-RIA Bio-based Industries Research and Innovation action
Opening date:
11 April 2018
Deadline: 06 September 2018 17:00:00

Time Zone : (Brussels time)
  Horizon 2020 H2020 website
Pillar: Industrial Leadership
Work Programme Year: H2020-JTI-BBI-2018
Work Programme Part: BBI Work Plan 2018
Topic Description
Specific Challenge:

Biocatalysts – enzymes and the microorganisms that contain them – offer great potential for the large-scale production of high-value products from renewable, bio-based feedstock. Unlike the conventional chemical conversion processes, biocatalytic conversions typically take place under mild conditions and achieve higher selectivity of specific characteristics, such as chirality. In addition, biocatalysis can realise the targeted conversion of specific biomass fractions such as lignin.

Currently available methods to screen and engineer microbial strains to display the desired biocatalytic features are often time-consuming and expensive, due to the inherent complexity of the metabolic networks involved. A significant improvement of these steps would allow for optimising the biocatalytic conversion of specific feedstocks in well-defined operating conditions, and would help consolidate the competitive advantage of biocatalysis over traditional chemical processes.

Moreover, the success of using biocatalysts for conversion processes is often dependent on the type of the targeted biomass feedstock and the presence of bioprocess inhibitors therein. Feedstock with a mixed composition, like lignocellulose and residual biomass that also contains inhibitors, presents the greatest challenges to biocatalytic transformation. Consequently, for the optimisation and monitoring of a bioprocess there is a need for a detectable/selectable microbial phenotype that correlates biocatalytic activity to the formation of the desired chemical end-product.

The specific challenge of this topic is to phenotypically link the performance of biocatalysts to specific product formation, considering feedstock type and quality, and operating conditions including the presence of inhibitors.


Apply innovative techniques to select the biocatalysts to optimally tackle specific feedstock type and composition for high selectivity and yield of the targeted product. If needed, these techniques should be further developed to improve the performance of the biocatalysts in dealing with inhibitors and the operating conditions.

These techniques should include both:

  • selecting and screening systems linking a readily accessible phenotype to product formation; and
  • techniques for analysing, selecting and improving the performance of microorganisms or enzymes to achieve higher efficiency of a given bioprocess.

Proposals should focus on either microorganisms or cell-free enzyme-based systems.

Metabolic and enzymatic engineering strategies may be pursued, as may microbial engineering through gene editing concepts.

Proposals should efficiently prove the innovativeness of the approaches for the purpose of subsequently applying the developed techniques at larger scales.

Proposals should deliver methods to achieve biocatalysis conversions that are more efficient than state-of-the-art alternatives. Proposals should seek to expand on projects already funded under Horizon 2020 and earlier projects to avoid overlap, promote synergies and advance beyond state-of-the-art methods.

The industry should actively participate to demonstrate the potential for integrating the developed concepts into current industrial landscapes or existing plants so that the concepts can be deployed more quickly and scaled up to apply industrial-wide.

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

Proposals should commit to assessing the environmental impacts of the developed processes or products using LCA methodologies based on available standards, certification, accepted and validated approaches (see introduction – section 2.2.5 - published in the BBI JU AWP 2018)1.

Proposals should also include an economic viability performance check (value chain and market analysis) of the developed products and processes, along with an analysis of social impacts where applicable.

If relevant, proposals should also allow for pre- and co-normative research necessary for developing the needed product quality standards.

The technology readiness level (TRL)2 at the end of the project should be 4-5. Proposals should clearly state the starting TRL.

Indicative funding:

It is considered that proposals requesting a contribution of between EUR 2 million and EUR 5 million would be able to address this specific challenge appropriately. However, this does not preclude the submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

1 The LCA may focus on a set of critical issues early on to steer the development process in the right direction. In this case, it is essential that this selection is carefully explained in the proposal in order to allow for expert assessment. See also in the introduction.

2 Technology readiness levels as defined in annex G of the General Annexes to the Horizon 2020 Work Programme: 2020/annexes/h2020-wp1820-annex-ga_en.pdf

Expected Impact:

Expected impacts:

  • contribute to KPI 1: create at least one new cross-sector interconnection in bio-based economy;
  • contribute to KPI 8: validate at least one new and improved processing technology reflecting the ‘TRL gain’ since the start of the project;
  • achieve a yield of the desired product of at least 20 % higher than state-of-the-art alternatives producing the same or similar product;
  • reduce the time and costs associated with microbial and/or enzymatic modification processes compared with the state-of-the-art.

Type of action: Research and innovation action.

Cross-cutting Priorities:

Cross-cutting Key-Enabling Technologies (KETs)

Topic conditions and documents

1.   Eligible countries: described in Annex A of the H2020 Work Programme.

      A number of non-EU/non-Associated Countries that are not automatically eligible for funding have made specific provisions for making funding available for their participants in Horizon 2020 projects. See the information in the Online Manual.


2. Eligibility and admissibility conditions: described in Annex B and Annex C of the Work Programme.

Proposal page limits and layout: Please refer to Part B of the proposal template in the submission tool below.

3.   Evaluation:


4.   Indicative time for evaluation and grant agreement:
      Information on the outcome of evaluation: maximum 5 months from the deadline for submission.
      Signature of grant agreements: maximum 8 months from the deadline for submission.

5.   Proposal templates, evaluation forms and model grant agreements (MGA):

Specific rules and funding rates: described in 2.3.6 of the BBI JU Work Plan.

Proposal templates are available after entering the submission tool below.

Standard evaluation form (CSA-RIA-IA)

BBI JU MGA - Multi-Beneficiary

H2020 Annotated Grant Agreement


6. Additional requirements:

Technology readiness levels (TRL)

Members of consortium are required to conclude a consortium agreement, in principle prior to the signature of the grant agreement.

7.   Open access must be granted to all scientific publications resulting from Horizon 2020 actions.

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.

Open access to research data
The Open Research Data Pilot has been extended to cover all Horizon 2020 topics for which the submission is opened on 26 July 2016 or later. Projects funded under this topic will therefore by default provide open access to the research data they generate, except if they decide to opt-out under the conditions described in Annex L of the H2020 main Work Programme. Projects can opt-out at any stage, that is both before and after the grant signature.

Note that the evaluation phase proposals will not be evaluated more favourably because they plan to open or share their data, and will not be penalised for opting out.

Open research data sharing applies to the data needed to validate the results presented in scientific publications. Additionally, projects can choose to make other data available open access and need to describe their approach in a Data Management Plan.

Projects need to create a Data Management Plan (DMP), except if they opt-out of making their research data open access. A first version of the DMP must be provided as an early deliverable within six months of the project and should be updated during the project as appropriate. The Commission already provides guidance documents, including a template for DMPs. See the Online Manual.

Eligibility of costs: costs related to data management and data sharing are eligible for reimbursement during the project duration.

The legal requirements for projects participating in this pilot are in the article 29.3 of the Model Grant Agreement.

8.   Additional documents

BBI JU Work Plan
BBI JU Scientific Innovation and Research Agenda (SIRA)
BBI JU Derogation to H2020 Rules for Participation
BBI JU Regulation of Establishment
H2020 Regulation of Establishment
H2020 Rules for Participation
H2020 Specific Programme
Frequently Asked Questions 2018

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