Project Summary

This 4.5-year project aims at reducing the dependence of Europe’s oleochemical industry on imported plant oils by turning camelina and crambe into profitable, sustainable, multipurpose, non-transgenic European oil crops.

The European oleochemical industry currently relies on imported coconut and palm kernel oils and fatty acids and on castor oil as sources for medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA, C10–C14) and medium-chain polymer building blocks. These are needed for the production of plastics, surfactants, detergents, lubricants, plasticisers and other products.

COSMOS aims at reducing this dependence by turning the currently underutilised domestic oil crops camelina and crambe into profitable, sustainable, multipurpose, non-transgenic European oil crops for the production of oleochemicals. Seed properties will be screened and optimised through genetic techniques aiming at high yield, low resource inputs, optimisation of the value generated from vegetative tissues and fatty acid profiles adapted to industrial needs. Large-scale field trials will be performed at different locations in Europe to assess the potential of the crops in terms of cultivation practices, seed yield, oil content, ease of harvesting, and resource inputs.

Extracted oils will be fractionated into various fatty acid types (monounsaturated versus polyunsaturated) by selective enzyme technologies and extraction processes. The monounsaturated long-chain fatty acids so obtained will be converted to medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA) and high-value building blocks for bio-plastics and flavour and fragrance ingredients through chemical and enzymatic chain cleavage processes. The ω3-rich polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) fraction will be purified for use in food and feed ingredients. Vegetative tissues such as straw, leaves and press cake will be fed to insects producing high-value proteins, chitin and fats. Insect fats and proteins will be isolated and prepared for use in food and feed products. The overall economic, social and environmental sustainability as well as life cycle of the whole value chain will be assessed. The impact of the project for Europe will be assessed in terms of value chain potentials for value creation and number of jobs that can be created.

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Work packages

WP1: Project Management

This WP is concerned with the integral Management of the project, enabling and stimulating efficient exchange of information and collaboration. The specific objectives are:

    • Ensuring proper implementation of Work Plan and achievement of COSMOS objectives
    • Efficient organisation and day-to-day management of the project
    • Preparing the Consortium Agreement
    • Monitoring and ensuring on-time delivery of scientific and financial reports
    • Establishing effective communication with the Commission
    • Ensuring proper interaction between collaborating partners
    • Organisation of project meetings
    • Stimulate / facilitate dissemination of results

The following partners are involved in WP1:

WP2: Oilseed breeding and genetics

WP2 will develop new varieties/genotypes of crambe and camelina that have an improved oil quality targetting industry demand (e.g. higher levels of mono-unsaturated C18, C20 and C22 fatty acids), higher oil yields and improved valorisation of non-oil and vegetative biomass (e.g. by reducing anti-nutritional factors like glucosinolates and sinapine that currently limit use for insect, cattle, pig and poultry feed). The specific objectives of this WP are:

  • To develop site directed mutagenesis with CRISPR/Cas9 for industrial oilseed crops crambe and camelina
  • To knockout PUFA production in order to increase mono-unsaturated fatty acid production
  • To knockout glucosinolate production in crambe in order to increase the value of the seed meal as feed
  • To knockout sinapine production in camelina in order to increase the value of the seed meal as feed

The following partners are involved in WP2:

WP3: Sustainable cultivation strategies

The aim of WP3 is to develop sustainable cultivation strategies for the selected oilseeds (Camelina, crambe), in order to optimise yields and oil content for the industrial needs.
Specific objectives are to:

  • Test agronomic practices to enhance sustainable crop yield and quality in several European climatic areas in small scale trials,
  • establish larger-scale fields in several European climatic areas,
  • develop business plans/scenarios for selected supply chains.

The following partners are involved in WP3:

Contact: Myrsini Christou,, +302106603394

WP4: Oil extraction and separation

The aim of WP4 is to obtain fully homogeneous fractions of oils, Fatty Acids and esters. WP4 will develop engineered new lipases with specificity to hydrolyse specific FA as a means to separate individual fatty acids species. WP4 will also develop a microbial process for the shortening of polyunsaturated fatty acids.

The following partners are involved in this WP:

Contact: Shila Ganguly,, +34 91 8060477

WP5: Vegetative tissue and seed meal valorisation by insects

The strategy in this WP is to valorise the residues of Crambe and Camelina crops, which contain glucosinolates which are anti-nutritional compounds, for mammals, through an insect biorefinery. The use of insects to convert crop residues increased oil & fat production, but also to turnd a non-edible crop into high value proteins and key fatty acids.
The WP also encompasses the extraction of glucosinolates from the seed meal, in order to generate a natural biopesticide and a detoxified seed meal of higher value.

Specific objectives are:

  • Identification of the composition & valuable components in side-streams of Crambe & Camelina oil seed production, i.e. vegetative tissues and seed residues,
  • In-solid supercritical fluid extraction of glucosinolates from Crambe & Camelina seed meals to improve valorisation (link with biopesticide / application tests in WP6),
  • Identification of insect species feeding on vegetative tissues and siliques of Crambe and Camelina crops in three sites in Europe,
  • Selecting insect species suitable to convert side-streams of oil seed production to high-quality protein and oil,
  • Develop a prototype for automated mass rearing of insects on side-streams and implement Insect biorefinery: design of a dedicated and efficient extraction, fractionation and characterization of lipids, proteins and other biomolecules with added value out of insect material grown on the side streams.

Partners involved in this WP:

WP6: (Bio)catalytic conversion & applications

The aim of WP6 is to address the final market applications. Oils or mixtures of very long chain fatty esters or isolated ones from WP4 will be spitted into medium chain fatty acid/esters and further processed to valuable products including fatty alcohols, branched esters and polyamides for applications in surfactants, lubricants, specialty polymers and cosmetics.
WP6 will also use all products derived from WP5 (vegetative tissue and seed meals and insects) to demonstrate their usefulness as food/feed and biopesticides.

Partners involved in this WP:

WP7: Integrated Assessment of Sustainability

The main objective of WP7 is to provide a multi-criteria evaluation of the sustainability aspects associated with the different COSMOS value chains including resource efficiency, technological aspects, performance and reliability of the value chain as well as environmental aspects, process economic effectiveness, but also social and political issues. A set of existing state-of-the-art methodologies and modelling techniques such as life cycle assessment (LCA), life cycle costing (LCC), social life cycle assessment (sLCA) and SWOT analysis will be used to determine the impacts on the different pillars of sustainability. Finally, these results will be consolidated by further analysis, forming the integrated sustainability assessment. This integration is expected to reveal potential conflicts and synergies within and between the different pillars of sustainability for the COSMOS value chains which can be addressed via further refinements of the pathways in an iterative way.

Partners involved in this WP:

WP8: Dissemination, exploitation and IP management

This WP will develop and implement a strategy for the dissemination and exploitation of research results of the COSMOS project to the different stakeholders. In order to effectively exploit the different opportunities resulting from our research, appropriate communication channels will be used and means of following-up need to be identified and utilised.
Potentially valuable intellectual property will be captured, evaluated and protected by the appropriate means as the project progresses. In order to better reap the potential societal benefits of our research in Europe in terms of higher value added, employment and ecological advantages, dissemination and exploitation also aims at providing policy recommendations.

Partners involved in this WP: