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lunes, 26 de junio de 2017

SIRA 2017 – Guidelines for the European biorefining sector of the future

The revision of this document had been brewing for months. The Strategic Innovation and Research Agenda (SIRA) of the Bio-based Industries Consortium (BIC) reflects the ambitions of its members and translates them into a set of specific actions designed to deliver tangible results by 2020 and by 2030. It was first adopted in 2013 and have just updated some days ago to consider the aims of BIC’s newest members and the most recent technology and market developments, among other issues. It might appear to be a short period but things are changing fast in the European bioeconomy.

Moreover, the SIRA is the basis for road mapping towards the BBI JU calls for proposals. The new version already applies to the BBI JU 2017 call whose deadline for submission of proposals is 7 September. Therefore, it is a compulsory reading for all the actors that are involved in the preparation of partnerships and proposals. Also, it will determine the topics and strategies for the calls to come until 2020.

Taking all these into account, the SIRA is a good tool to understand and envision the course the European advanced biorefineries will sail in the medium-short term. I think it can be worthwhile analyzing briefly some key general points and new approaches of the updated edition.

Figure 1. Cover of the SIRA

From value chains to strategic orientations

The approach of the SIRA 2013 was structured around 5 value chains: from lignocellulosic feedstock to advanced biofuels; the next generation forest-based value chains; the next generation agro-based value chains; emergence of new value chains from (organic) waste; the integrated energy, pulp and chemicals biorefineries. The SIRA 2017 introduces the concept of strategic orientations, the composing pillars of the biobased value chains. The document is now articulated in four strategic orientations: sustainable biomass feedstocks; innovative processes; innovative bioproducts for specific applications; market uptakes.

Both editions emphasize the role of the value chains. Thus, what is the change? In the first SIRA, value chains were well-defined and bounded by the 5 references. New SIRA seeks the crossover between conventional value chains. Boundaries disappear and novel possibilities are opened. In the words of the document, “the multi-value-chain approach increases opportunities to convert and valorise new feedstocks into a wide array of bio-based products”.

Bioeconomy is integral to the circular economy

New elements that support the development of a circular bioeconomy can be found throughout the updated SIRA. If we look through overall strategic objectives: the first and the tenth ones include biowaste (OFMSW or sludge from wastewater treatment) as new feedstock; the third one claims for the mobilisation and utilisation of 15 % of currently unused sources per year by 2020; the fifth one pursues solutions towards ‘zero-waste’ biobased operations and closure of the cycles. In the section about supply of sustainable feedstock (first strategic orientation), the residual and side streams are constantly mentioned. This is only an example, the new version is full of references to circular economy. Curiously, the word “circular” did not appear in the previous SIRA.

Aquatic-based sources and CO2 as promising feedstocks

According to the tenth overall strategic objective, marine living resources represent a huge and almost untapped reservoir of new bio-based products. A complete subsection of the first strategic orientation highlights the wonders of aquatic feedstock and states that harnessing the potential of seas and oceans sustainably is critical for Europe.

The biobased industries set out to capture and use CO2 for agriculture applications or conversion into added-value products. They will work closely with the SPIRE public-private partnership to find new solutions for valorising CO2. While SPIRE mainly focuses on various chemical technologies, the biobased industries use biotechnological conversion.

TRL gain of RIA projects

The SIRA 2013 established 7 key measurable objectives. Those 7 objectives and its associated KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) remain unchanged and an additional objective is included in the new SIRA. It is the “TRL gain” of technologies as compared with the level at the start of the project. This objective affects Research and Innovation Actions. The number of new and improved processing technologies validated with BBI projects should be 20 by 2020.

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