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).
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.
Dateline for submission: 6 September 2018 17:00:00 (Brussels time)
Source: European Commission
Illustration Photo: Microorganisms such as algae are among the world’s smallest chemical factories. They produce metabolites, which are valuable raw materials for the chemical industry. BASF already uses the algae Dunaliella salina in Australia to produce β-carotene for food additives. (credits: BASF / Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0))