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UlrikaRova CourtesyLTUUlrika Rova has received the Luleå University of Technology's Innovator of the Year Award 2020, for her project to develop prebiotics from woody and marine biomass. Photo by courtesy of the LTU.Bio4Energy scientist This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. has received a prize for her research group’s ground-breaking project to develop prebiotics for use in food and fish feed, from wood and the outer layer of sea-living organism.

Bio4Energy partner Luleå University of Technology (LTU) awards professor Rova its 2020 Innovator of the Year Award for having taken “an idea further for the benefit of the surrounding society and who has been creative, innovative, driven, visionary, committed and entrepreneurial.

"The innovation contributes with new opportunities to solve three of the world’s biggest problems: Poor public health, unsustainable resource management and limited food supply”, a press release from the LTU said.

The project called ForceUpValue had recently concluded trials for food applications with successful results, professor Rova said in an e-mail message to Bio4Energy Communications. 

This means that there is scientific proof that the bio-based prebiotics—or good-for-your-intestines fibres—can contribute to strengthening the immune system of people who ingest them. What prebiotics do, in fact, is to support probiotics which are key health-promoting bacteria in the human gut.

The next step will be to run real-life trials for fish feed to evaluate whether the bio-based prebiotics actually enhances the physical growth and sturdiness of fish. Excitingly, Rova added, the team was finally at the stage of identifying end products.

The ForceUpValue project aims at demonstrating the production of low-cost prebiotics—food or feed ingredients that, once in the gut, induce the growth of microorganisms and which activity can have a positive effect on human health—starting from two abundantly available sources of bio-based feedstock: Forestry residues and a sea-living organism called Ciona intestinalis. The latter is known to have an outer layer, a tunic, rich in cellulose, which the project partners expect to use in the production of prebiotics.

The rest of the Ciona intestinalis, sea squirt in English, which body is made up of protein and fat, one of the partners hope to put to use of in a related project. This is in line with a guiding principle for all of Bio4Energy's activities, that is to seek to recover as much of the feedstock as possible, ensuring efficient resource use.

While the project partners do not expect to take the process all the way to commercialisation by project end, they do envisage moving from the stage of experimental proof of concept (technology readiness level two) to proof of system (TRL 9). Their goal is to have at least two end products reach the market within four years of the research project's conclusion.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Paul Christakopoulos, Anthi Karnaouri and Eleni Krikigianni are all LTU researcher working on ForceUpValue, short for Food-grade prebiOtic production, meRging marine and forest resouCEs for moving UP the cellulose VALUE-chain.

Scientists at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences are involved, as are four small or medium-sized companies; Marin Biogas, Essum, LTU Business and Dyrka. The large Swedish forestry company and forest owner Sveaskog, in the Bio4Energy Industrial Network, is also a partner. 

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