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The resulting tools and technologies will be proved through three use-cases: nutraceuticals, laundry products and personal care and cosmetics. 

Research project receives €6M to boost greener consumer products in Europe using innovative biotechnology

A pioneering, pan-European research project, designed to boost greener industrial processes for more sustainable daily consumer products like cosmetics or foods, has been launched. 

The four-year RadicalZ research project, which includes experts from the University of Exeter, launches today ( June 9th) having received €6 million funding from the European Union. 

One of the EU’s sustainability goals is to move away from current oil-based processes by strengthening the bioeconomy. To achieve this paradigm shift, the industry needs new and potent enzymes — natural catalysts of the reactions needed to create chemical products — but their discovery and development require time-consuming and expensive methods. 

RadicalZ gathers an interdisciplinary consortium comprising 12 expert partners from all over Europe to improve the efficiency of the process by delivering faster, more versatile and more affordable tools for enzyme discovery and optimization.  

Led by Dr Aurelio Hidalgo from the Autonomous University of Madrid (UAM), the team will develop ultrafast screening technologies and user-friendly software based on machine learning that will help industries reduce the average time for enzyme discovery and optimization to less than four weeks. This will enable the development of new formulations and ingredients for more environmentally friendly consumer products.  

The University of Exeter’s Professor Jennifer Littlechild, a Biological Chemistry expert, and Dr Fabrice Gielen are involved in the project. 

Professor Littlechild said: “‘RADICALZ provides an opportunity to reduce the time of discovery and optimisation of new enzyme catalysts for applications in products for our everyday life. At Exeter, we will use a rapid microfluidic approach to both discover and improve enzymes for their application.  

“We will also search through unique DNA databases sourced from naturally hot environments and use our knowledge of protein 3D structure to improve enzyme properties for sustainable biotechnological applications.” 

Dr Hildago added: "Out of all the research projects I have taken part in, I think RadicalZ will be the closest to consumers and the one most likely to have an immediate impact and change in our lives.  It represents an effort to increase the sustainability of the little things that form part of everyday routines, a cosmetic, your laundry, the food we have for breakfast.

“We are very concerned about the sustainability crisis that lies ahead,” he continues, “and as experts on enzyme biotechnology, we decided to focus our decades of experience and know-how together with the latest technological advances to develop ingredients for consumer products that are at least as effective and yet bio-based and more sustainable.”   

The resulting tools and technologies will be proved through three use-cases: nutraceuticals, laundry products and personal care and cosmetics. 

 RadicalZ is a European project formed by 12 partners: Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Sveuńćilište u Zagrebu Fakultet kemijskog inzenjerstva i tehnologije, Sustainable Momentum SL, Scienseed SL, The University of Exeter, Institut National des Sciences Appliquées de Toulouse, Bio-Prodict BV, Biotechnology Research and Information Network AG, Universitaet Greifswald, AnalytiCon Discovery GmbH, Chr. Hansen A/S 

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No 101000560)”.

Date: 9 June 2021

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