Enabling the bioeconomy with a platform production and integrated separation technology

Lead Participant: Holiferm Limited


"For many applications biobased chemicals produced by fermentation have enhanced functionality compared to petrochemically derived products but are significantly more expensive to manufacture and are therefore only used in niche applications. Most surfactants in use in the cosmetic industry are currently oil-based irritants, and many in the agricultural market are toxic endocrine disruptors, with bans coming into place for some of these surfactants. There is also a strong customer driver for improved performance and green surfactants.

We have developed a technique to reduce production costs for biobased chemicals produced by fermentation by around 40%. Fermentations use microorganisms to convert renewable raw materials into a biochemical product in a large stainless-steel vessel. During fermentation the bioproduct accumulates, causing mixing and other problems, and resulting in the fermentation having to be stopped. The novel gravity-based separation system we have developed can recover the product as it is produced, preventing the negative effects of product accumulation and allowing process intensification. The use of the technology can triple the output from a given vessel, reducing capital expenditure requirements 3x.

This technology has been demonstrated fully for one biosurfactant product, sophorolipid, for which we have performed scale up trials in collaboration with several active companies. We are now scaling up the technology for industrial production and applying the technology across a whole range of lipid bioproducts.

In this project, we aim to reach a pre-industrial validation of our technology with sophorolipid with a system configured for industrial use and a 750 l bioreactor. Whilst other integrated separation technologies have often been shown to be successful at lab scale, few are scaled up due to cost and complexity, and while we have already reached pilot scale a pre industrial validation will be another important milestone. We will also aim to demonstrate a 50% performance improvement with a second bioproduct, mannosylerithritol lipids, at laboratory scale, and generate a proof of principle, with a third product, rhamnolipids. As importantly, we will be building a team capable of delivering this project and subsequently developing a successful business. This will allow our company to be derisked to a sufficient extent to attract significant financial investment, as well as fully paying clients. This project contributes towards facilitating a move towards a circular bioeconomy and increased UK productivity in line with the UK bioeconomy and industrial strategies."

Lead Participant

Project Cost

Grant Offer

Holiferm Limited £298,299 £ 208,809


10 25 50