GreenStars, Towards a New Generation of Biofuels and Products with Microalgae

GreenStars_microalgae and co-productsGreenStars, laureate of the French call for projects known as the “French Stimulus Initiative” (Investissements d’Avenir) Institute of Excellence on Carbon-Free Energies, federates a network of collaborative platforms bringing together all the players in the development of microalgae in France. The primary goal by 2020 is to develop compounds of interest such as efficient biofuels and high added value substances with microalgae feeding on industrial emissions of carbon dioxide and nutrients contained in waste.

Led by INRA in collaboration with 45 partners (public research, SMEs, multinationals, local authorities, competitiveness clusters), GreenStars aims at becoming, within five to ten years, one of the top Institutes of Excellence worldwide in the field of microalgae biorefinery. A budget of €160 million for 10 years has been estimated, of which 20% come from public grants.

Microalgae offer a potential for innovation in energy, chemistry, human and animal nutrition, cosmetics because of their intrinsic richness. Indeed, microalgae are known for their extraordinary composition: including protein, fat, fiber, vitamins, minerals and pigments. They still offer a field of exploration to develop innovative products, natural and functional.

In the context of global strategic challenges involving the development of bio-energies, microalgae could be a solution for the future and bring major economic development in ten years. Research initiatives and investments in the field of microalgae for energy purposes have increased considerably: over $2 billion investments and over 200 R&D projects were listed, mostly in the USA. 3rd generation biofuels can be produced using industrial CO2 or substrate from sewage waters, following a recycling strategy and a management of waste due to human activity. Furthermore, the production can be performed on non-arable land. In addition, microalgae are able to accumulate as much as half their weight in lipids, one of the primary matters for producing biofuels, which leads to potentially high productivity levels.

The Institute was conceived in order to give France an industrial vision of the complete production chain and at the same time to become a major player on an international scale. In order to achieve this goal, this network of collaborative platforms brings together top French research in every related scientific field, innovative SMEs involved in all products derived from algae and large firms concerned by these markets.

GreenStars brings together three main strengths: it gathers real innovation capacities and premium infrastructures – equipped with consequent technologic means. And it unites actors with all the skills in the field, from the physiology of microalgae to the optimization of culture conditions through the extraction of products of interest or notions of eco-conception, computational modeling and simulation, social acceptance and economic analysis.

In the future and according to the results obtained, it could create jobs and new opportunities in the various industrial sectors. GreenStars will also participate in training engineers in competences that will be needed in order to create a strong and sustainable field in the future.

As soon as 2016, GreenStars will have industrial prototypes based on state-of-the-art technologies that will allow building a viable economic and environmental model.

Green Stars at a glance:

45 partners:

Public Institutions:

  • Research Organizations and Universities: INRA, INRIA, CNRS, IRD, Ifremer, CEA, l’IFP-EN, Université Montpellier 2 and Université Pierre et Marie Curie.
  • Local Authorities: Communauté de Communes du Nord Bassin de Thau, Communauté d’Agglomération du Grand Narbonne, Métropole Nice Côte d’Azur, Conseil Général des Alpes Maritimes, Région Languedoc Roussillon and Région Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur

Private Institutions:

  • Competitiveness Clusters: Trimatec, Mer PACA and Industries & Agro-Ressources.
  • Companies: Air Liquide, ACRI, Alfa Laval, Algaestream, Algenics, Algu’Innov, Bioalgostral, EADS, Eco-Solution, Envolure, Fermentalg, Greensea, IDEE Aquaculture, La Compagnie du Vent-GDF Suez, Microphyt, Naskeo Environnement, Ondalys, Peugeot Citroën Automobiles, Rhodia, Roquette, Sofiprotéol, Soliance, Solvay, Suez Environnement, TIA, TOTAL, Véolia Environnement.

3 sites covering 50 hectares (over a 1000 are available) in Montpellier-Etang de Thau (headquarters at Ecosite de Mèze), Narbonne and Nice (Plaine du Var) on which the main installations will be established.

Facilities provided by research labs such as the Environmental Biotechnology lab (INRA), the Mediterranean Center for Marine Ecosystem Experimental Research (UM2/CNRS), the laboratory Ecology of Coastal Marine -ECOSYM (UM1-2/CNRS/IRD/Ifremer), the Oceanographic lab of Villefranche-sur-Mer (CNRS/UPMC) and the Inria Sophia Antipolis-Méditerranée research center, the Marine Station of Roscoff (CNRS/UPMC), the Cadarache Center (CEA), the Physiology and Biotechnology of Algea lab at Nantes (Ifremer) and the experimental acquaculture platform at Palavas (Ifremer).

GreenStars should host 200 researchers, engineers and technicians.

A mutual governance gathering all partners.

An initial budget of €160 million.