The OXIPRO project coordinator NORCE takes a novel enzyme strategy to the marine sector

NORCE Norwegian Research Centre is the coordinator of the OXIPRO project. NORCE also plays a main role in an innovation case of the projects to improve the utility of marine by-products.

At the core of NORCE’s research lies the development of sustainable solutions for society at large, anchored to the UN’s sustainable development goals. NORCE is the second largest research institute in Norway, with a broad scientific profile and about 800 employees.

The biotechnology and circular economy department at NORCE has a 25-year track record, specialized labs and infrastructure, and about 40 employees crossing three research groups.
Strategic priorities for the department are on the expansion of the molecular and microbial toolbox in biotech, and microbial production, scale-up and implementation. Enzyme technologies are tools that needs advancement in terms of discovery of novel activities, new application areas and optimized production means.

In OXIPRO, NORCE focuses on an innovation case where a specific type of oxidoreductase enzyme is investigated for its ability to reduce the undesirable smell of marine protein hydrolysates for use in food supplements or clinical nutrition.

Marine protein hydrolysates are made of by-products from fish filet processing. Despite these being a good source of nutritional amino acids, their utility in food products is limited by the fish smell which is transferred to the products.

– The strategy could improve the utility of fish by-products by allowing more of that to reach the food market, says research director at NORCE, Gro Bjerga.

– Although we see these environmental gains with the enzyme technology, Bjerga adds, the costs need to be justified by a better product or higher value markets than the chemical processing alternatives.

In addition to proving the technology and concept, NORCE coordinates a work package on microbial production of enzymes. NORCE hosts the Norwegian infrastructure on Bioprocessing and Fermentation (NBioC) which is a national competence centre for fermentation R&D, piloting and scale-up.

In OXIPRO, NORCE will focus on bioprocess development.

– To minimise costly and time-consuming scaling trials, technology expertise in process modelling and simulation will be applied to prognose and optimize large-scale productions, says Catherine Boccadoro, OXIPRO work package leader.

Sustainability is at the heart of OXIPRO. NORCE commit to safe use of the technology, but also environmentally, economically, and socially responsible use. As an example, the material flow of the value chain will be followed by NORCE’s resource economists to make sure the enzyme technology is not adding unexpected burdens to neither nature nor people.

– It is exciting to see the interdisciplinarity play out in such a large project, and how useful this is to evaluate our solution in a holistic way, says Bjerga.

– The advantage of taking this challenge to a large European project, is that we can attract new expertise – or new to us at least. The consortium has a strong industry network from which we can get input to guide our research trajectories, she adds.

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