Bio4Energy today submitted an application for a project under the EU's ERASMUS Mundus Joint Doctorates funding programme, with a view to starting a full-blown graduate school in which doctoral student from eight “core” universities in four European countries would be trained to lead Europe's shift to a greener, bio-based economy.
In addition, 28 associated partners from industry, so-called cluster companies and further universities are part of the project proposal.
“We believe we have a very strong application… and strong partners. We have developed a concept and a constellation that we are very happy with”, said project coordinator Ulrika Rova of the Luleå University of Technology (LTU).
An EMDJ project award would mean that the "core" universities at Luleå and Umeå in northern Sweden, at Padua and Salerno in Italy, at Oulu and Åbo in Finland, and in the Belgian city of Ghent, could take on a leading role in European doctoral-student training that covered the whole of the biorefinery value chain, Rova said.
Turning out professionals with a 'holistic' view
Thanks to the long-standing cooperation between the three B4E partner universities and industry, the EMDJ constellation would turn out not only researchers, but also consultants or professional equipped to lead industry’s efforts to develop clean and efficient bioenergy, biofuels and bio-based products.
“An ERASMUS Mundus (project) generally supports eight-to-ten doctoral students per year… for a period of eight years”, said Rova.
Having worked doubled shifts over the last few weeks to produce a top-quality application, Rova said that her team was excited at the prospect of the three B4E universities and its partners providing Europe with a graduate school for doctoral students that took a “truly holistic” approach to biorefinery.
This would cover most aspect of the biorefinery value chain, from developing robust raw materials with a high energy yield and pest-resistant properties, to pretreatment and fractionation of the biomass, generally sourced from forests; and further to maximising energy yield by refining production processes and avoiding environmentally-harmful emissions. Moreover, thermo-chemical and biotechnological techniques and applications would be explored, as well as catalytic and separation processes. Process integration steps and checks on the overall environmental performance would be incorporated, as would be report writing techniques and systems analysis' development. This approach mimicks that of the B4E research environment.
However, Rova stressed, whether the application was granted or not, B4E would still be in a position to offer its doctoral researchers academic and applied training, although in a “much smaller” version of the graduate school than that envisaged in the EMDJ proposal.
The constellation “opens up possibilities for new collaborations for Bio4Energy and a whole new cluster (of partners) for the universities.
“I am really happy with the application we have put together. It has been stressful (at times) but we have had really good support from the researchers” and university support staff, Rova said.
She said that she expected to have a return on the application in July this year.