R&D orientations to bioenergy

R&D are key to enabling the transition to a circular economy and to boost the competitiveness of EU industry. Public and private investments are necessary to make it happen. Horizon 2020, COSME, the Structural and Investment Funds, the Fund for Strategic Investments and other EU programmes are important support instruments at the EU level. SMEs, including social enterprises, are particularly active in fields such as recycling, repair and innovation. They play an important role in the development of a more circular economy.

Source: European Commision

In order to foster the development of sustainable biomass-based energy technologies, different fields of research must be integrated.



The table below presents the current and future key areas of R&D regarding bioenergy


Emerging technologies

Future technologies

Biomass resources

• New energy crops
• New oilseed crops
• Bio-waste management

• Bio-engineering of new energy plants
• Development of low-energy agricultural production systems
• Aquatic biomass (algae)
• IT methods in land and biological systems management

Supply systems

• Use of new agro-machinery
• Biomass densification
• Other simple pretreatments (e.g. leaching)
• Logistics of supply chains

• Biorefining
• Biotech-based quality monitoring throughout the whole procurement chain
• IT tools for supply chain modelling and optimal management


• Advanced combustion
• Co-combustion
• Gasification
• Pyrolysis
• Bioethanol from sugar and starch
• Bioethanol from lignocellulosic material
• Biodiesel from vegetable oils
• Advanced anaerobic digestion

• Biohydrogen (hydrogen from bioconversion of biomass)
• Plasma-based conversions
• Advanced bioconversion schemes
• Other novel conversion pathways (e.g. electrochemical)
• Novel schemes for down-stream processing (e.g. of pyrolytic liquids or synthetic FT-biofuels)

End products

• Bioheat
• Bioelectricity
• Transport biofuels
• Upgraded solid biofuels (pellets)

• Use of hydrogen in fuel cells
• Use of FT-biofuels in new motor-concepts e. g. CCS (Combined Combustion Systems)
• New bio-products (biotech)
• Complex, multi-product systems (IT)
• CO2 sequestration; other new end-use “cultures” (e.g., user-friendliness, “closed cycle”)

System integration

• Normalisation and standards
• Best practices
• Economic/ecological modelling and optimisation

• IT-based management
• Socio-technical and cultural design of applications
• Sustainability based on global as well as local effects

Source: Risoe energy report 2, 2003

Most of the current EU R&D programmes related to bioenergy are carried out within the Horizon 2020 programme which has incorporated the Intelligent Energy – Europe programme. These have worked in line with the European Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET-Plan) and the more recent Communication Energy Techonologies and Innovation updating it. It establishes an energy technology policy for Europe with aim to accelarate the development and deployment of cost-effective low carbon technologies.

Horizon 2020, is the financial instrument implement the EU 2020 flagship initiative Innovation Union. With a budget of nearly 80€ billion for the next 7 years (2014-2020), it is the biggest EU research programme ever. Regarding the biomass sector, Horizon 2020 addresses in several sections and subsections, such as Secure, Clean and Efficient Energy, Climate Action, Environment, Resource Efficiency and Raw Materials or the Bioeconomy subsection.

Moreover, within the framework of Horizon 2020, new initiatives have been established in order to develop the potential of biomass such as Bio-Based Industries Public Private Partnership, which with a budget of 3,7€ billions aims at increasing investment in the development of a sustainable bio-based industry sector in Europe. Furthermore, Technology Platforms as the EU Biofuels Platform or the Renewable Heat and Cooling Platform play an essential role in the definition of the future of the biomass sector and the development of new initiatives. 

NER 300 is also a source of funds for financing the construction of essential infraestructure within the area of renewable energy. So far has organized 2 calls of proposals with a budget of 2.2 billions with which it has financed 14 bioenergy projects.

Finally, LIFE, the EU funding instrument for the environment and climate action funds several actions related with the biomass sector, as a matter of fact the sustainable use of solid biomass is one of the Climate Change Mitigation topics of interests. Furthermore, the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development or the European Regional Development Fund can work together with R&I funds in order to increase the amount and effectivity of these grants.