In the last decade Europe has faced a great deal of coordination activities in the field of bioeconomy research. They cover almost all thematic areas of bioeconomy but differ in size of the consortia and duration, in scope and aim as well as in the instruments under which they were implemented. The majority of these initiatives consider the entire EU in order to foster the European cohesion and, thereby, somewhat disregard regional specificities (e.g. type and sources of biomass available).
Therefore, three research funders from Finland, Norway and Germany have decided to jointly implement a bioeconomy funding initiative relevant for the Northern part of Europe. They are aware that the three countries share analogue challenges and similar assets with regard to climate, vegetation patterns, industry structure and cultural aspects. The objective is to deepen the cooperation of researchers, to create critical mass, to generate synergies, to increase the quality of R&D in topics relevant for bioeconomy in the Northern by supporting excellent scientific communities.
The aim of “Bioeconomy in the North” is to implement transnational calls for proposals for research, development and innovation in the forest-based bioeconomy sector relevant for the Northern part of Europe. The primary objective is to support “Research and innovation leading to new products and supply services from non-food / non-feed biomass resources in Northern Europe”.
The consortium consists at the moment of three partners representing programs in the bioeconomy funding sector and coming from the northern part of Europe:
The first transnational call for proposals for research, development and innovation in the forest-based sector within the initiative „Bioeconomy in the North“ with a financial commitment from the three participating national research programs was launched in September 2018. Projects significantly contributing to at least one of the three following topics
could be submitted until January 2019. Consortia must involve at least two partners from two different countries member of the initiative and the participation of at least one industry partner was mandatory.
The total budget for funding transnational research projects in the first call of “Bioeconomy in the North” was approximatively 6.3 million Euro.
Funding is granted for a maximum of three years according to the national rules of the funders.
A total of 39 proposals were submitted, 33 of them fulfilled the initiative and the national regulations and entered the scientific evaluation phase which was performed by a panel of international experts. Based on the ranking and the available national funding 5 research consortia were selected for funding (Figure 1).
The majority of the proposals submitted dealt with topic 2, biomass conversion. About one third of the proposals were related to topic 3, valorization and governance strategies, whereas 8 proposals concerned topic 1, biomass production (Figure 2). Please note that some projects were covering more than one topic.
5 projects have been selected for funding and will start by the end of 2019 / beginning of 2020:
ID20 – TreeGeneClimate – Sustainable wood and biomass production: Novel property traits, resilience to climate change pest and diseases
Coordinator: Fred Asiegbu | University of Helsinki | firstname.lastname@example.org
Countries: Finland / Germany
Project aim: Forestry and forest industry occupy a central position in the emerging concept of a bioeconomy aiming at a society relying strongly on renewable biological resources with associated economic, environmental and societal benefits. Timber and its associated products from forest trees contribute substantially to the revenue generation of many countries in the world including Finland and Germany. The demand for wood and forest products is expected to continue growing for the foreseeable future. However, major threats to the sustainable supply of forest products and services are adverse climate, pests and diseases.
In this project, we plan to dissect the genetic basis of wood quality traits of one of the most economically important forest trees, Norway spruce through a combination of genetic studies and genome-wide markers associated to its physical and chemical properties, disease resistance, decay resistance and heartwood extractives. We will search for and identify novel wood property traits vital for adaptation to climate change, resistance against pathogenic fungi, as well as heartwood traits that may be necessary to limit the decay of timber and construction wood. The majority of the earlier genetic studies in trees have concentrated on growth or wood quality traits. Adaptation to climate and resistance traits can be equally important as growth, as tree improvement tries to generate better resources for the changing environments. The traditional forest tree breeding programs have been substantially hampered by long generation times of forest trees. The advances of tree genomics, including the availability of genome sequences for the major forest trees, open new ways for the development of novel tools to assist in the genetic improvement of breeding populations and in the management of the natural populations. Our goal is to utilize novel genomic and phenotyping methods and examine the feasibility of conducting genomic selection (GS) in Norway spruce trees considering a demanding and changing environment using a relevant set of population resources and traits.
ID28 – FireCellCoat – Bio-inspired fire retardant wood coatings based on microfibrillated cellulose
Coordinator: Claudia Schirp | Fraunhofer Institute for Wood Research (WKI) | email@example.com
Countries: Germany / Finland / Norway
Project aim: The main objective of the project FireCellCoat is the development of a bio-inspired, fire retardant wood coatings based on microfibrillated cellulose (MFC) that will protect wood-based building products in interior and exterior applications. The coatings shall have lower environmental impacts and lower or equal life cycle costs compared to conventional fire retardant coatings; in addition they shall fulfil the technical requirements for interior wall paints and exterior wood coatings.
FireCellCoat’s approach is to construct a novel fire-retardant structure draws inspiration from Canary pine bark architecture and chemistry - nature’s outstanding solution against fire. Our principal hypothesis is that by designing a similar type of macro-scaled multilayer structure we can develop a wood coating that is able to delay ignition and fire propagation. To achieve our objective, MFC will be used in combination with inorganic components. This will be complemented by a chemical approach involving copolymerization techniques to protect the fire-retardant material against leaching from the coatings.
In summary, FireCellCoat contributes to the biobased economy by providing a novel approach to achieving durable, high-performance fire-retardant materials based on sustainable resources.
ID36 – LIGNOLIPP – From LIGNOcellulose sugars to high-value LIPids and bioPolymers in a single fermentation process
Coordinator: Vohla Shapaval | Norwegian University of Life Sciences | firstname.lastname@example.org
Countries: Norway / Germany
Project aim: The LIGNOLIPP project will develop a completely new and unique value chain for the valorization of sugar-rich lignocellulose hydrolysates, deriving two products from a single fermentation process. LIGNOLIPP aims at combining the expertise of Norwegian and German academic and industrial partners in the field of fungal lipids and chitin/chitosan for utilizing the unique potential of oleaginous Zygomycetes fungi in order to develop a single fermentation process for co-production of high-value lipids and chitin/chitosan biopolymers from sugar-rich lignocellulose hydrolysates originating from forestry waste streams. The LIGNOLIPP project has a set of targeted technological and strategic business objectives that relate to the process development and the evaluation of the economic viability and sustainability of the suggested process, respectively. LIGNOLIPP will be realized by the close collaboration between the research partners – Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU), Norwegian Research Centre (NORCE), companies – Biosentrum and Borregaard from Norway and research partner University of Muenster (WWU) and the company Bex-Biotec from Germany.
ID49 – Lignin2Wood – Bio-phenols from Lignin to Wood
Coordinator: Janka Dibdiakova | Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research (NIBIO) | email@example.com
Countries: Norway / Germany
Project aim: The main aim of Lignin2Wood is to develop a wood modification technology which increases the durability and weathering performance of wood and is based on using resol type phenol-formaldehyde resin, where petroleum-based phenols will be partly replaced by the mono-phenolic compounds from lignin using a pyrolysis process. The project’s long-term goal is to develop a better understanding of different process parameters to increase the quality/purity of pyrolysis bio-oils and to understand the relationship between bio-oil chemical structures in the context of developing resins for wood modification from renewable sources. Next to lignin-based phenols for wood treatment, potential medium-value products of Lignin2Wood will be on the production of resins, adhesives and laminates for the application in the wood-processing industry. As high-value compounds, especially for the pharmaceutical and medicinal market, single compounds and purified fractions will be evaluated regarding to separation options, costs and market size. The production of wood treatment resins from pyrolysis oils, using lignin as renewable resource, would lead to sustainable and innovative solutions for Northern Europe, global agriculture and bio-based industries. Integration of wood chemistry and biorefinery expertise within Lignin2Wood propose a successful implementation and integral valorization of the selected valuable molecules in wood-based lignins.
ID65 – NewHyPe – New Hybrid paper
Coordinator: Klaus Rose | Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research (ISC)| firstname.lastname@example.org
Countries: Germany / Norway / Finland
Project aim: The problem of fossil plastic waste is that significant shares thereof are not recycled, properly landfilled or incinerated, but end up in nature after a short time of use. Cellulose is the most abundant biopolymer on earth, and is one of few sustainable raw materials available in sufficiently large quantities to meet the world’s future demands for new materials, which can replace fossil plastics in various applications.
The project aims in the development of novel sustainable, cellulose-based and biodegradable materials as a long-term solution that can substitute some of the fossil-based plastics, in particular plastic that is now used for a short period of time and then thrown away. The target of the project is to improve the basic stability of cellulosic-based materials/cellulosic fibres significantly by a combination with specific inorganic-organic hybrid polymers (ORMOCER®s) leading to an increased/adjustable mechanical and chemical stability of the resulting hybrid composite.
The NewHyPe project aims at developing substitutes for fossil-based plastics by addressing the two following products:
(1) A partly water resistant but still degradable paper to replace non-degradable plastic mulch films for use in agriculture. This replacement aims at solving the severe littering problem caused by currently used non-degradable plastic mulches on agriculture fields.
(2) Nanocellulose-based degradable films with sufficient strength, water resistance and ductility for replacement of fossil-based plastic films used as food packaging.