Biobased polyols for flexible polyurethane foams in automotive applications

BIOPOL4MOTIVE will support car manufacturers and their suppliers in making polyurethane (PU) foams used in car acoustic interiors more sustainable. The project will create two grades of PU systems specifically developed for manufacturing flexible PU foams with a substantial biobased content, without functional loss, and at attractive cost.

Sustainable PU foams
Due to their high performance at low weight and their competitive cost, PU foams are the material of choice for car acoustic interiors. Today, fossil-based methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (MDI) and polyols are used to produce these PU foams. As car manufacturers and their suppliers strive towards increased sustainability and a reduced CO2 footprint, they are looking for ways to incorporate more sustainable materials into their PU foams.

One such sustainable material is biobased polyol. Currently, however, the chemical structure, inconsistent quality and cost of bio-polyol are curtailing its full potential. PU foams containing more than 10% bio-polyols, for example, exhibit an immediate loss of functionality. To overcome this challenge and increase the amount of bio-polyols in PU foams, innovative solutions are needed.

New bio-polyols
BIOPOL4MOTIVE offers these solutions by developing new bio-polyols and modified MDI, targeting use in automotive acoustic applications. In practice, the project aims to create two grades of PU systems developed for manufacturing flexible PU foams (i.e. high-resilience and visco-elastic) with a substantial biobased content. This will be achieved by developing the bio-polyol polymer and the MDI pre-polymer including the bio-polyol, delivering the required biobased content without functional loss and at attractive cost.

The project will lead to a significant increase of sustainable content in PU-based car acoustic interiors, while preserving the use and production of light-weight, cost-competitive PU foams in the automotive value chain.

Project Details
Project type: O&O
Approved on: 16/06/2021
Duration: 01/04/2021-31/12/2023
Total budget: €2.553.157
Subsidy: €1.276.579
Project Partners
To execute the project, a partnership covering the entire PU foam value chain was established: from a polyol producer (Oleon), over a PU raw material and formulated systems producer (Huntsman), to a supplier of sustainable lightweight components for acoustic and thermal management (Autoneum).
Questions about this project? Please contact catalyst Linsey Garcia-Gonzalez (

Flemish Bioeconomy Label
In the framework of the Flemish government’s policy plan for the bioeconomy, BIOPOL4MOTIVE was awarded the Bioeconomy Label by VLAIO.

Financed through the recovery plan ‘Vlaamse Veerkracht’, the policy plan for the bioeconomy seeks, amongst others, to stimulate spearhead clusters like Catalisti and support their collaborative innovation projects.

BIOPOL4MOTIVE is the first cluster project to be awarded the label, as it matches one or more of the focus themes identified by the policy plan, including the conversion of biomass and/or biological waste into useable materials and products.


The interregional ValBran project focussed on enhancing the value of wheat bran, an agricultural co-product derived from flour mills and biorefineries that is mainly used for animal feed. The project finished in December 2020. Scroll down to learn more, or read the end report.


Starting from the carbohydrates of wheat bran, ValBran aimed to develop biotechnological and green chemistry pathways for the sustainable production of high added-value surfactant molecules, as a substitute for oil-based molecules. The plant-based molecules were required to respect four conditions: have a lower cost than the oil-based equivalent, have at least equivalent properties to those of the oil-based equivalent, do not compete with food, and have minimal environmental impact. Targeted applications were detergency, cosmetics, phytosanitary agents and food additives.

A second ambition consisted of strengthening the cross-border cooperation between the bio-economy sectors of northern France, Wallonia and Flanders. This aim was reflected in the broad project consortium, which included partners from all three regions.


Specifically, the project focussed on two categories of surfactants: alkylpolyglycosides (APG) and sugar esters. Its approach consisted of developing several laboratory-scale processes and the selecting the most promising process for pilot-scale transfer. This was followed by an economic and environmental analysis of the developed process(es).


The project lasted 4 years and finished in December 2020. It has shown that wheat bran has great potential for the sustainable production of surfactants. It proved possible to produce biological surfactants with interesting properties via enzymatic technologies. Yet, the production cost of the biological surfactants remains an issue, as it is higher than the cost for producing oil-based surfactants. Tests at pilot scale will have to be carried out to demonstrate the economic viability of the processes.

Learn more about the project results by reading the the end report.

Project Details

Project type: INTERREG
Duration: 31/12/2016 – 31/12/2020
Total budget: €1.745.826
Subsidy: €872.913

Project Partners


Assessment of Microbial Protein Sources for Food and Feed

The goal of Prometheus, an intercluster project in collaboration with Flanders’ FOOD, is to deliver the proof-of-concept that microbial protein-rich biomass and by-products from citric acid production are fit for use as high-quality proteins in feed and food.

More information about this project will soon be provided on this page.

Project Details
Project type: ICON
Approved on: 12/12/2019
Duration: 1/03/2020 – 30/03/2022
Total budget: €1.880.692
Subsidy: €1.316.313
Project Partners

EnzymASE 2

Enzymes for Added Sustainability and Efficiency

Building on the previous Catalisti project EnzymASE, EnzymASE 2 seeks to create environmentally friendly processes to produce chemical products with the help of enzymes. This should lead to new and improved products, as well as reduced CO2 emissions.

More information about this project will soon be provided on this page.

Project Details
Project type: ICON
Approved on: 12/12/2019
Duration: 30/06/2019 – 29/06/2022
Total budget: €1.769.357
Subsidy: €1.285.041
Project Partners


Biobased resins from aldehydes and lignin

The current industrial production of a wide range of chemicals and synthetic polymers relies on fossil resources. Consumers and brand owners drive the search for biobased materials and products that are more sustainable. Companies search for performant materials containing biosourced carbon. Phenol, a fossil-derived chemical building block, is used downstream in various chemical formulations and applications, such as phenolic resins. Phenolic resins are successfully used in a variety of industrial applications, among others automotive, coating, varnish, adhesives, construction and insulation foams. For all these applications, there is a continued drive to find novel sustainable alternatives to these basic building blocks. In view of its chemical resemblance and availability, lignin and its derivatives could be a viable alternative to partially substitute phenol in phenol-formaldehyde resins.

The BIORESAL project aims to research to produce biobased LPF resins by replacing phenol with (modified) oligomeric lignin fractions, as potentially less hazardous and sustainable building blocks for their application in insulation materials and moulding compounds. Most importantly, this replacement is needed in a technologically proven and economically viable way. Additionally, BIORESAL will include the evaluation of a series of aldehydes as co-reactant in the synthesis of biobased LPF resins.

Project Details
Project type: ICON
Approved on: 13/12/2018
Duration: 01/05/2019 – 30/04/2022
Total budget: €2.596.723
Subsidy: €1.807.567
Project Partners

Biobased Resins Using Lignin and Glyoxal
I. Van Nieuwenhove, T. Renders, J. Lauwaert, T. De Roo, J. De Clercq, and A. Verberckmoes
ACS Sustainable Chem. Eng. 2020, 8, 51, 18789–18809 – DOI: 10.1021/acssuschemeng.0c07227

The utilization of lignin and glyoxal as potentially sustainable and less hazardous building blocks for phenolic resins is an emerging research field. Lignin thereby serves as a partial, macromolecular substitute for phenol, while glyoxal fulfills the role of an aldehyde cross-linker. In the first part of this perspective, the industrial context of lignin and glyoxal will be expounded with a focus on their origin and production processes. In the framework of phenolic resins, the use of lignin and glyoxal can be categorized into two research domains: (i) glyoxalation to improve the reactivity of lignin prior to resin synthesis and (ii) direct resin synthesis using lignin and glyoxal with glyoxal immediately serving as the cross-linker. This perspective provides a comprehensive overview of the progress made in both domains, pinpointing the opportunities, blind spots, and challenges that lay ahead.

The full publication can be accessed via:


Polyol-Based Flame Retardants and Lubricants

Flame retardants are a diverse group of chemicals which are added to a number of different materials (e.g. plastics, textiles, building materials) to enhance the materials’ resistance to fire. Within this diverse group, halogenated flame retardants are often regarded as being the most effective flame retardant, as only relatively small amounts are needed to obtain high flame protection. Nevertheless, this class of flame retardants can have detrimental effects on the aquatic environment if they leach out of different (plastic) materials, as they are very persistent, and they tend to bioaccumulate. A second possible negative effect could be their toxicity for humans. For these reasons, a number of them have been put on the candidate list (SVHC), like for instance hexabromocyclododecane (HBCDD) and decabromodiphenyl ether (DecaBDE). There clearly is a need for more sustainable and environmentally friendly flame retardants.

The PolyFlam project aims to develop and produce branched polyols derived from a bio-based alcohol. These polyols can then be further transformed into (reactive) flame retardants via phosphorylation chemistry. The obtained flame retardants can subsequently be used in different applications, such as textile, polymers and fire-resistant industrial fluids. The bio-based polyols can also be converted into (fully) bio-based lubricants. The project will result in a new value chain starting from a common bio-based alcohol and ending up in high-end applications that can be embedded in the chemical industry in Flanders.

Project Details
Project type: ICON
Approved on: 13/12/2018
Duration: 01/04/2019 – 31/03/2022
Total budget: €2.274.737
Subsidy: €1.633.696
Project Partners


Innovative Trends in Cosmetics

InTiCosm is an interregional project between Flanders, France and Wallonia that aims to investigate the development of biosourced materials and their use in the field of cosmetic formulation. These compounds, called “green cargo ships”, are made from molecules obtained primarily from biorefineries in the Franco-Belgian region, respecting the principles of green chemistry as much as possible (in particular by reducing the use of solvents and the number of synthesis steps). The molecules obtained are used in cosmetic formulations. Specific studies are carried out to select the most efficient and least expensive cargoes, which can then be tested with manufacturers in the cross-border region.

The project also seeks to strengthen the cross-border cooperation between the bio-economy sectors of northern France, Wallonia and Flanders. This aim is reflected by the broad project consortium, which includes partners from all three regions.

More info about the project can be found on the VITO website (in Dutch).

Project Details
Project type: INTERREG
Duration: 01/01/2019 – 31/12/2022
Total budget: €2.207.229,65
Subsidy: €1.103.614,80
Project Partners


Screening the Application Potential of a Yeast-Based Biosurfactant Portfolio

Surfactants are performance molecules that intervene in nearly every product and aspect of human daily life with a global turnover of $31 billion in 2016. Despite the efforts to move towards a bio-based economy, only 4% of the surfactant market is 100% bio-based (e.g. APGs and MESs). An even smaller part (<0.1 %) of the market is not only 100% bio-based, but also produced through biological processes, such as microbial, plant-based and/or enzymatic processes. Although a lot of companies are striving towards such sustainable solutions, current limitations blocking valorisation of such technologies are the higher production costs as well as the limited structural variability and subsequent lack of physicochemical (and biological) properties.

The AppliSurf project will apply a combination of genetic modification, fermentation development/optimization and green chemistry to enable commercial production of an innovative and broad portfolio of biosurfactant structures at an acceptable cost. The unique properties of these ‘new-to-market’ biosurfactants will be identified by high throughput screening for industrially relevant properties (foaming, emulsification, wetting, gelling, antimicrobial properties, etc.). Subsequent structure-function modeling of this family of compounds will enable the prediction of the properties of compounds not included in the screen. The latter will maximize the output of the project, also after the projects’ end. Scale-up of the optimized production processes will generate samples for in-house evaluation by the members of the industrial user group.

AppliSurf Industry User Group
The project partners are looking for companies that wish to be involved in the user group of this VIS project. The user group is open to all interested companies, even outside Flanders. Interested companies can contact Catalisti at for more information.

Project Details
Project type: VIS
Approved on: 13/12/2017
Duration: 31/08/2018 – 31/08/2020
Total budget: €624.827
Subsidy: €499.853
Project Partners


Bio-Aromatics Feedstock and Technology Assessment

Due to lignin’s wide availability, its aromatic structure, as well as the variety of potential modifications offered by its chemical structure, many studies have shown that the real commercial opportunity offered by lignin lies in its valorization as a renewable feedstock of aromatics for the chemical industry. This renewed interest in lignin has stimulated research for the development of an economically viable lignin conversion route into high-added value bio-aromatics as phenol and phenol derivatives.

The intrinsic properties of lignin, the variability of the resource, heterogeneous and polydisperse molar masses and hype-branched structures have, until now, hindered technological and commercial developments. While technology for isolating lignin from biomass is no longer the main obstacle for effective valorization, extensive research is currently being undertaken globally to propose innovative concepts of biorefinery based on disruptive processing/purification technologies.

The BAFTA project seeks to initiate the first steps in closing the virtual “valley of death” between research and industrial scale, thereby focusing on the general aim of the transition towards a biobased chemical industry in Flanders using lignocellulosic feedstock. The target group of companies that will benefit from this project are found throughout the value chain of bio-aromatics (from paper, wood, and waste treatment companies as a primary/secondary source for feedstock, over producers of polymers or fine-chemicals based on phenolic compounds, to formulators in the area of adhesives, UV-stabilizers, dyes, inks, coatings).

The main goals of this project are fivefold. First, a technology mapping for the conversion of lignin and wood biomass into useful chemical building blocks will be done. Secondly, a feedstock overview will be worked out both quantitative and qualitative for three different types, being virgin wood, waste wood and lignin. Another goal is creating a clear overview of the IP landscape and freedom-to-operate for conversion technologies of lignin and wood biomass. This will lead to the selection of 2 most promising technologies per feedstock (lignin and wood) based on a decision support framework. A detailed analysis of the two selected technologies per feedstock and recommendations for future research and follow-up projects will be provided. The last goals is the sampling of 4 different technologies at kg-scale and characterization of obtained samples on both stability and reproducibility.

Press Publications
Lignin as feedstock for bioaromatics – NPT Magazine – 7 July 2020

Project Details
Project type: VIS
Approved on: 05/12/2017
Duration: 01/01/2018 – 31/05/2019
Total budget: €199.945
Subsidy: €159.956
Project Partners


Sugar-Based Chemicals and Polymers through Innovative Chemocatalysis and Engineered Yeast

Cancellation of the EU sugar quota as of October 1th 2017 will have important consequences for European sugar producers, not at least in terms of the evolution of sugar prices towards prices on the global market. Together with the disappearance of export limitations, this will lead to new opportunities for sugar as feedstock for production of chemicals and materials. Market analysts also expect an increase of EU sucrose and glucose syrup production.

The SPICY project aims to provide the chemical industry with new or optimized processes to convert sugars into added value compounds, i.e. both drop-ins and novel biobased chemicals (see figure below). Two complementary lines are hereto developed in parallel, one focusing on biotechnology based on improved yeast-strains and one based on chemocatalytic routes. Both will aspire to meet industrial standards of productivity, titer, yield and selectivity, to safeguard potential economic benefit and future industrial valorisation. Most of the targeted platform chemicals are (potential) monomers for biobased plastics, hence, a second aim of SPICY is to deliver proof-of-concept of their usefulness by targeting novel and functional polymeric materials, typically not found in the current oil-based value chain.

The project has the ambition to strengthen the position of Flanders in terms of research into biobased processes and materials. The relevance of this project is further emphasized by an industrial advisory board eager to implement the results and create economic valorisation. Current members of the advisory board include: 3M, Allnex, Beaulieu, Cargill, Eastman, EOC, Galactic, GF Biochemicals, GlobalYeast, INEOS Styrolution, Proviron, Solvay, Tereos and Tiense Suiker.

Project Details
Project type: cSBO
Approved on: 14/12/2017
Duration: 01/02/2018 – 31/01/2022
Total budget: €2.526.011
Subsidy: €2.526.011
Project Partners