A project led by BBIA member Novamont aiming to demonstrate the technical, economic and environmental sustainability of a highly innovative, integrated biorefinery has been awarded a €17 million (£12 million) grant by the Bio-Based Industries Joint Undertaking (BBI).

The FIRST2RUN project will be coordinated by BBIA member Novamont in partnership with four other companies – SIP (UK), SoliQz (The Netherlands), Biophil (Slovakia) and Matrìca (Italy) – and the University of Bologna.

The project, which as already received over €300 million (£212 million) from private investors, will see regeneration in existing industrial plants that are no longer competitive or have already been decommissioned.

As part of the project, low-input oilseed cultures such as thistle are cultivated on arid land and used to extract vegetable oils that can be converted into bio-monomers (mainly pelargonic and azelaic acids) and esters that can aid the formulation of bioproducts including biolubricants, cosmetics, plasticisers and bioplastics.

By-products from the manufacturing process will be used to obtain animal feed, other value-added chemicals and energy from scraps in order to increase the sustainability of the value chain.

Novamont says that standardisation, certification and dissemination will be integral aspects of the project, as well as a study into the social impact of products deriving from renewable resources.

BBI details

The BBI, a public/private partnership between the European Union and the Bio-Based Industries Consortium (BIC), which represents the private sector, was formed to create new jobs, particularly in rural areas, and to offer European citizens new, sustainable and locally-made products.

The body seeks to ‘boost the EU capacity to stimulate growth and jobs via a more circular, low carbon and sustainable bioeconomy’.

The partnership reportedly plans to invest up to €3.7 billion (£2.6 billion) by 2020. The EU will contribute €975 million (£689 million) of this total, with BIC putting in €2.7 billion (£1.9 billion).

Ten projects have so far been allocated funding of €120 million (£85 million): seven research projects, two demonstrations of the technological and economic viability of biorefinery systems and processes, and one industrial-scale flagship project, with the FIRST2Run project taking the latter designation.

Funding will ‘accelerate opportunities for economic growth in Europe’

Commenting on the BBI investment, Novamont CEO Catia Bastioli said: “We are very proud of this achievement which represents yet another important step in the development of Novamont’s integrated biorefinery model and demonstrates the speed we are able to turn research results into industrial applications and the creation of new markets.

“We believe that the Bio-Based Industries Joint Undertaking, through this first flagship project, can produce a decisive acceleration in the field of

[the] circular economy and circular bioeconomy, creating not only new knowledge but also opportunities for economic growth and employment in Europe.”

Learn more about BBI funding.