REBECA – Boosting the blue bioeconomy in the Macaronesia region
Ana Ferreira (BioMarine Community Manager)
By now, we have all experienced the positive effects of collaborative projects – the scope is broadened, the impacts are amplified, resources are leveraged, and best practices can be taught and transmitted among partners increasing cost effectiveness. In the Macaronesian region, this is being put into practice by the Macaronesian Algae Biotechnology Platform (REBECA) – a collaborative platform created to boost the blue bioeconomy and consolidate a Network of Excellence in Biotechnology. We talked to Corina Moya Falcón, Manager of the Spanish Bank of Algae (Gran Canaria), to know all about this collaborative Platform!
[CLICK HERE to access the PDF document of the interview]
The reasons behind The REBECA Platform
Upon realizing that much work has been done related to marine resources in the Macaronesian and North-West African Regions, but yet it remained scattered and undervalued, the Spanish Bank of Algae (part of the University of Las Palmas) decided to take the lead on The REBECA Platform. Their main goal? Corina explained it very clearly – “To favour the consolidation of a Network of Excellence in Biotechnology based on the Blue Economy through the integration and establishment of microalgae collections”. This, and Corina continues, “will not only allow to actively build synergies and collaborative strategies – through the joint use of common infrastructures, staff training and qualification programmes, the offer of services, etc. – but also to provide fundamental support for new biotechnological development projects based on the proper use of our biological heritage, particularly microalgae”.
The Consortium supporting REBECA
Although taking the lead, the REBECA Platform was only possible to create due to the close partnership between the Spanish Bank of Algae with key partners in the region, such as the University of the Azores, the University of Madeira, the University of Cape Verde and the University of Science, Technology and Medicine in Mauritania. After creation of this Consortium, the project was finally funded under the MAC-Interreg 2014-2020 Territorial Cooperation programme and is running since 2017.
REBECA’s main lines of action
In order to boost the marine bioindustry in the Macaronesian region, REBECA develops specific lines of action, as Corina enumerated: 1) Building a common and homogenized data-base for microalgae and cyanobacteria - “As each entity has its own organization, it is very difficult to compare the data. For this reason, REBECA homogenizes and standardizes such data, leveraging its possible applications”; 2) Valorization of new strains of microalgae and cyanobacteria - “Through the collection and optimized study, it is possible to do a more complete analysis of the most interesting strains for different commercial applications. Once identified, we aim to analyze the upscaling processes and out-processing through the development of pilot projects in partnership with the industry”; 3) Product commercialization – “After all the R&D and testing of interesting compounds, we aim to support the final commercialization of obtained products through the facilitation of business incubation and connection to local companies to bring these new products to the market”.
Some of the results achieved so far…
So far, the project has already achieved considerable results as Corina proudly shared - “Several bioprospections have been carried out in the islands of the Azores, Canary Island and Cabo Verde, allowing for the identification and isolation of 416 strains of microalgae and cyanobacteria, that will enrich the collections”. Regarding the valorization of such resources, so far, “a total of 149 strains are being studied for their interesting compounds (e.g. polysaccharides, used for bioplastics production, and pigments such as fucoxanthin) and bioactivity (e.g. anticancer)”. Also, some upscaling trials have been developed on “the production of microalgae strains (at semi-industrial scale) for the production of fucoxanthin”. Regarding education, the base for the dissemination of best practices, Corina said that “2 training courses on Bioprospection, isolation and identification of microalgae and cyanobacteria have been carried out”.
Looking for future collaborations
The REBECA platform intends to establish an ever-growing number of participating entities that go way beyond the Macaronesian region, as Corina explained - “We are already very well connected to relevant International Organizations such as the World Federation for Culture Collections, the European Culture Collection, the Microbial Resources Research Infraestructure (MIRRI) as well as the European Consortium of Microbial Resources Centres (EMBRC), and our goal is to integrate other Research and Industrial entities to leverage the work we have been doing”. Such work has also been put into practice - “We have signed agreements with national and regional R&D companies to join development products in the agriculture and the biomedicine sector. We are planning to sign an agreement with CIIMAR Research Centre (Portugal) for the joint development of microalgae and cyanobacteria culture collections. Finally, we have already started to work with local cosmetic companies in the development of new products based on microalgae”.
We are excited to see the outcomes of such projects and will keep you posted!
Want to know more info about The REBECA Platform?
Click HERE or contact the team through the BioMarine Community!