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Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality invests 25 million in research into energy from plants and algae

13 July 2009

The research programme ‘Towards Biosolar Cells’ has been awarded a EUR 25 million budget by the government. The Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (LNV) nominated the programme because it will help develop sustainable energy and biomass and help improve food provision. At the University of Groningen Prof. Roberta Croce’s group is participating in the programme.

The research focuses on increasing the efficiency of the conversion of sunlight into energy and building materials by plants – i.e. photosynthesis. The programme will also deal with developing artificial leaves.

‘Biobased economy’

When oil, coal and natural gas become scarce, we will need alternative energy sources, as well as alternatives for oil-based products such as plastic. The economy needs to become less dependent on fossil fuels, hence the cabinet’s emphasis on alternatives in the run-up to the so-called ‘biobased economy’.

Solar power

The earth receives as much energy from the sun every hour as all of mankind uses in a year. Plants have a highly refined way of trapping solar energy in, for instance, fibres and nutrients. Once we understand this process better we can produce energy ourselves or improve the conversion of sunlight as well as making new products.

The Towards Biosolar Cells programme follows three tracks:
1. Increasing the efficiency of photosynthesis in plants. This results in a higher biomass per hectare yield for energy or food use (for instance producing more, larger or heavier plants).
2. The direct production of biofuels without having to harvest the biomass (plants), for example photosynthetic cyanobacteria or algae, which produce butanol which can be used as a biofuel.
3. Combining natural and technical parts. The result is a solar collector which provides fuel instead of electricity.

Six universities

Six universities, including the University of Groningen, three leading institutes, thirty companies, a university of applied sciences and the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research are involved in the programme. The top institutes and universities will combine their outstanding knowledge of photosynthesis, biophysics, biochemistry, bionanotechnology, genomics and physiology. The thirty-odd companies involved are an innovative group including new enterprises, small and medium-sized businesses and large companies that are active in the fields of energy, algae production and selective plant breeding.


In addition to the research programme there will also be a subprogramme aimed at enhancing teaching in the field of photosynthesis. However, not only will there be projects at higher education and university levels, additional projects will be organized to interest secondary school pupils in developments in the field of photosynthesis science.


- Murco Mijnlieff, Ministerie van LNV, tel.: 0031-6-20 01 36 86, e-mail:

- Prof. Roberta Croce

Last modified:10 February 2017 3.25 p.m.
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