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Europe Invests Billions in Bioeconomy

With growing global backlash again fossil-fuel dependence—for both environmental sustainability and political stability—the formation of a robust bioeconomy has moved from idea to reality. Taking the lead on bioeconomy development, European scientific, academic, and governmental communities have worked together to create a partnership worth more than US$4 billion.

The Bio-Based Industries Joint Undertaking (BBI JU) is a EUR3.7 billion Public-Private Partnership between the EU and the Bio-based Industries Consortium. The BBI JU website (bbi-europe.eu) explains that, operating under Horizon 2020, this EU body is driven by the Vision and Strategic Innovation and Research Agenda (SIRA) developed by the industry.

Tackling the Challenge
A strong European bio-based industrial sector will significantly reduce Europe's dependency on fossil-based products, help the EU meet climate change targets, and lead to greener and more environmentally friendly growth.

The key is to develop new biorefining technologies to sustainably transform renewable natural resources into bio-based products, materials and fuels. This nascent sector is expected to grow rapidly and create new markets and jobs, and is already attracting substantial investments in the US, China and Brazil. The EU has the industrial, research and renewable resources potential. It is now a matter of deploying it in a sustainable manner to compete in the global bioeconomy race.

The BBI JU represents EUR3.7 billion investments in bio-based innovation from 2014-2020 as follows:
• EUR975 million of EU funds (through Horizon 2020) and €2.7 billion of private investments; and
• Leveraging capital markets and additional private and public funds (e.g. synergies with EU Structural Funds).

This public-private partnership will focus on three strategic areas: fostering a sustainable biomass supply with increased productivity and building new supply chains; optimizing efficient processing through research and development, and demonstrating efficiency and economic viability at large-scale flagship biorefineries; and developing markets for bio-based products while optimizing policy frameworks.

According to the website, the benefits to Europe will be extensive, and include potential to:
• Develop the potential of waste as well as agriculture and forestry residues.
• Diversify and grow farmers' incomes: up to 40 percent additional margins with existing residues.
• Replace at least 30 percent of oil-based chemicals and materials with bio-based and biodegradable ones by 2030.
• Create a competitive bio-based infrastructure in Europe, boosting job creation, 80 percent of which will be in rural and underdeveloped areas.
• Deliver bio-based products that are comparable and/or superior to fossil-based products in terms of price, performance, availability and environmental benefits.
• The new bio-based products resulting from the BBI JU will on average reduce CO2 emissions by at least 50 percent compared to their fossil alternatives.

Current Projects
The BBI JU is currently funding projects within four distinct "strategic orientations": Feedstock, Products, Process, and Market Uptake. The following are just a few of the current projects related directly to lignocellulose and/or the forest-based industries.

LIBRE: Lignin-based carbon fibers for composites. The LIBRE project will use lignin-rich side stream feedstock from the pulp and paper industry, blended with a biopolymer precursor fiber, to create a more resource-efficient and sustainable carbon fiber production process. The ultimate aim of the LIBRE project is to create carbon fiber materials with a superior structure that will open up potential new markets.

SWEETWOODS: Production and deploying of high purity lignin and affordable platform chemicals through wood-based sugars. The SWEETWOODS project aims to develop a first-of-a-kind biofractionation flagship plant in Estonia that uses sustainable hardwood biomass. The process combines innovative pre-treatment technology with enzymatic solutions to provide sugar recovery levels of over 90 per cent with exceptionally high-quality lignin. Sugars and lignin can be further processed and converted to high-value biomaterials capable of replacing fossil based chemicals in a wide range of products. The project, which uses wood processing residues as a feedstock, will lead to wood-based biomaterials being produced on an industrial scale for the first time.

EFFORTE: Efficient forestry by precision planning and management for sustainable environment and cost-competitive bio-based industry. EFFORTE recognizes that forestry can be improved using data analysis approaches that can optimize each stage, adding value step-by-step and as a whole. In addition, deploying geographic information systems in combination with information about stand and soil properties, EFFORTE will help increase revenues and production while reducing undesirable environmental impacts. In part, it seeks to develop precision forestry based on data analysis ("big data") to increase cost-efficiency and boost new business opportunities.

EXILVA: Flagship demonstration of an integrated plant towards large scale supply and market assessment of MFC (microfibrillated cellulose)
. MFC is a revolutionary product with potential in a huge range of applications, including personal care, cosmetics, home care, pharmaceutical excipients, composites and resins, and CO2 capture. It also has the potential to replace many fossil fuel-based products. However, commercialization has proved challenging. The EXILVA project sets out to change this by transferring technology from the existing pilot production and eventually scaling up to commercial levels.

GREENLIGHT: Cost effective lignin-based carbon fibers for innovative light-weight applications.
Carbon fiber's exceptionally high strength-to-weight ratio offers numerous advantages for many applications. However, it is expensive to produce, and the cost has restricted its use to relatively rarefied sectors such as aerospace, high-end automotive construction, and wind energy. The GreenLight project will demonstrate a value-chain for creating a new bio-based, renewable, and economically viable carbon fiber precursor—lignin—that will be produced in Europe with European raw materials. These precursors will be suitable for processing into carbon fiber and structural carbon fiber composites and make those more affordable and accessible, particularly in mass-market vehicles.

TECH4EFFECT: Techniques and Technologies for Effective Wood Procurement. Increased biomass demand generates a need for more accessible forests to maintain a sustainable supply and maximize the value of this resource. TECH4EFFECT aims to deploy technological advances to advance European forest management to a new level. The project will increase efficiencies including both lowering the cost and the environmental impact of harvesting from forests. By developing a state-of-the-art knowledge-based decision-support system aimed at increasing efficiency, TECH4EFFCT will offer a novel way to exploit the increasing amounts of data generated in modern forestry. TECH4EFFECT seeks to implement the developed efficiency management tool in five participating countries.

Call for Proposals
If you're a stakeholder in Europe's forest-based industries, you have the opportunity to become involved in creating the European Union's bioeconomy. The Bio-Based Industries Joint Undertaking operates under Horizon 2020 rules and thus on the principles of openness, transparency, and excellence. In other words, everyone can participate and the best proposals—evaluated by independent experts—will win.
BBI JU is responsible for the implementation of open call for proposals for research and innovation actions and innovation actions, as well as coordination and support actions, in line with the Horizon 2020 rules for participation. BBI JU Calls are open to private for-profit and not-for-profit organizations, including large enterprises as well as SMEs, Research and Technology Organizations, universities, associations, or any legal entity interested in BBI activities.

The Call 2019 is currently open and the deadline for submission of proposals to the Call 2019 is 4 September 2019, 17:00 CET. The submission of proposals to the Call 2019 can be done through the Funding & Tenders Opportunities portal.

"With an indicative budget of EUR 135 million (US$151 million), our 2019 Call will cover 21 topics in four strategic orientations: feedstock, process, products, and market uptake," comments BBI JU Executive Director Philippe Mengal. "I invite you to apply for this opportunity and join our community of beneficiaries who are working together to build a bio-based sector that is putting Europe back on the map of attractive areas for investment in bio-based industries."

Source for materials: The Bio-Based Industries Joint Undertaking, https://www.bbi-europe.eu

For a modest investment of $174, receive more than US$ 1000 in benefits in return.
Visit www.tappi.org/join for more details.