Europe’s most promising university students presented their projects to develop the bioeconomy during a contest launched by BIC

Former EU Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn speaks to delegates during the Bioeconomy conference in Dublin on February 14, 2013.

Contribute to the sustainability of society by designing a bio-based product or process. This was the task set for pioneering student teams participating in the third edition of the European Biobased Student Innovation Challenge 2021. The five finalists presented their innovative projects to a jury consisting of leading experts from across the bio-based sector. The combined votes from the expert jury and an audience of bio-based industry representatives decided which of the top five teams was the overall winner of BioSYNERGISE 2021, an event organised by the Bio-based Industries Consortium (BIC). Team WaterSkins from the Netherlands rose to the top with their innovative idea to harness wastewater to produce a leather-like material. 

BISC-E seeks to promote breakthrough innovation in the bio-based sector in an annual competition between some of Europe’s most promising university students. This year, a record number of fourteen European countries participated including Belgium, Croatia, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Romania, Serbia and Spain. 

The fourteen teams first presented their innovative projects to a jury consisting of leading experts from the bio-based sector. The top five teams selected by the jury then competed in the European final held during BIC event BioSYNERGISE, where votes from the jury selection were combined with votes from bio-based industry representatives to choose the winning team. 

Team WaterSkins from the Netherlands came out on top with their idea to produce a polymer from wastewater which is then treated into a leather-like material. Team PhytoTowel from Ireland placed second with their idea to simultaneously treat wastewater by soaking up nutrients and producing new, valuable green biomass. Team Loaf Foam from Belgium came third with their project to harness bread waste to produce starch-based packing material. The prizes for the top three were handed over by Isidro Laso Ballesteros, member of the cabinet of the European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, Mariya Gabriel. 

Two other teams competed in this year’s European final: Team Eco-lution from Portugal with their idea to extract high-value compounds from peach kernel waste and team B-MOST from Italy with their project to combine yeasts to produce a natural soap to clean pollutants from soil.

“The jury and BIC members were notably impressed by the high quality of this year’s submissions”, stated Nelo Emerencia, BIC Programming and Chairman of the BIC Education team. “To realise the Vision for a circular bio-society by 2050, we must mainstream bioeconomic curricula across education systems and better align educational systems with industrial needs. The BISC-E competition is a demonstration of the bio-based industries commitment to making this happen”.

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