Call for Regular Research Proposals and for Young Investigator Award Proposals to FAPESP's Research Program on Bioenergy - BIOEN

1) Background information

FAPESP has been supporting research projects significant for the advancement of knowledge and technology in Bioenergy. For 45 years the foundation has fostered, through its several research support instruments, a large number of research projects in themes related to Energy and the Environment. Besides advancing fundamental and applied knowledge on Bioenergy, the FAPESP Research Programa on Bioenergy - BIOEN - aims at contributing decisively for the formation of scientific and technical personnel in the field of Bioenergy R&D.

Brazil stands out in the world as the country in which alternatives to oil for powering transportation are more intensely used. Sugarcane ethanol supplied, in 2006 (1), 13% of the energy for land transportation (excluding railroads) and 28% of the total liquid fuel energy consumption for Otto cycle engines, a percentage that has reached 51% in 1988. In the USA, the second largest world producer of ethanol (from corn) this percentage was 2.5% in 2004.

Brazil was the world's leading producer of Bio-ethanol until 2004, contributing slightly less than half the world's total, followed by the United States. Since 2005 the U.S. slightly surpassed Brazil's production. Together these two countries produce 70% of world ethanol. The European Union, with a production of almost 0.5 million-tons, is estimated to have produced about 10% of the world's total Bio-ethanol. Brazilian Bio-ethanol production costs are the lowest in the world.

Besides the lower production costs when compared, for example, with ethanol from corn in the United States, ethanol produced from sugarcane in Brazil has another important advantage: in Central-South Brazil only 1 unit of fossil energy is used for each 8-9 units of energy produced by ethanol from sugarcane. For corn ethanol in the United States this ratio does not exceed 1.8.

Carbon emissions reduction also benefits from ethanol: for each ethanol ton used as fuel, there is a saving of 2.5t of CO2 (2) not emitted to the atmosphere while, at the same time, no SO2 is emitted.

Sugarcane was introduced in Brazil in 1532. Since then the plant has been improved, based on the development of varieties of sugarcane that could maximize the amount of sucrose produced per hectare-year. This "Brazilian model" of producing concomitantly sugar and ethanol, brought important technical benefits and made possible an outstanding increase in the competitiveness in the international market for sugar and ethanol. Today about 50% of the sucrose of sugarcane produced in the country is directed to the production of sugar while another half is used to produce Ethanol, which is made with part of the extracted juice and the molasses resulting from the manufacture of the sugar.

Ethanol has excellent chances to become a worldwide replacement or complement for gasoline. The recent increase of oil prices and the impending limitations in world oil reserves and production made Brazilian ethanol very competitive. On top of this, ethanol from sugarcane has substantial advantage in that it generates eight times more energy than the energy of fossil origin necessary to produce it, bringing a relevant saving of carbon emissions.

The world gasoline market was about 1.47 trillions of liters in 2005 [British Petroleum Statistical Review of World Energy - 2005;]; so that to satisfy a demand of 10% of this it would be necessary to produce about 160 billion liters of fuel ethanol, amounting to 10 times the current Brazilian production.

Today, only one third of the available energy in sugarcane, which is stored in sucrose, is effectively used to advantage in the production of sugar and ethanol. The stalks - approximately 1/3 of the cane energy - are burnt, with low energetic efficiency, to fuel the process of sugar or ethanol fabrication. The last third, composed of leaves and other cellulosic materials, is - as it is now - useless, because of the harvesting fire which wastes the trash, composed by tops and leaves.

Emerging technologies, such as hydrolysis, will allow the fabrication of ethanol from cellulosic material. While today the production costs are non-competitive, if R&D finds a way to lower them, using the two thirds cellulosic material to generate ethanol might improve dramatically the Brazilian ethanol production.

Considering the existing opportunities related to biofuels, it makes sense to use R&D about the sugarcane plant to optimize not the sucrose content, which is relevant for sugar production, but the energy content, considering that there is energy in the sucrose and that there is also a relevant and extractable amount of energy in the cellulose which forms close to 2/3 of the sugarcane plant. This plant would actually be an "energy-cane" instead of a "sugar-cane".

In the new paradigm, of "energy-cane" and not "sugarcane", one would collect the trash (optimization in the harvesting process) in order to improve the use of the bagasse. Developed hydrolysis and/or the gasification processes could be applied to the residual bagasse and trash, transforming this cellulosic biomass into ethanol or other fuels, using fermentation of the generated sugar (hydrolysis) or the catalytic synthesis of the generated gas (gasification). The production of ethanol might increase from the current 6,000 to about 9,000 liters per hectare-year.

Rising oil costs will also push the petrochemical industry towards substituting oil for ethanol as an input. The increase in world demand for ethanol will bring an increase of the sugar-cane planted area in Brazil and more R&D will be necessary to evaluate and predict the environmental and social impacts.

Given these opportunities and challenges, it is necessary for Brazil and for Sâo Paulo to intensify the R&D activities related to the production of ethanol from sugarcane. Relevant themes are: improvements in the sugarcane plant, improvements in the farming and harvesting of cane, the industrial processes to produce ethanol from cane, the use of ethanol as input in petrochemical industry, thus turning it into alcohol-chemical industry. With respect to the application of ethanol as a vehicular fuel, relevant themes are: optimized flex-fuel (ethanol-gasoline) engines, and given the world advances, to study the ethanol use in Homogeneous Charge Compression Ignition (HCCI) engines and as Hydrogen storage for fuel cells. Finally, considering the possible impacts of the increase in the demand of ethanol in Brazil it is important to foster research on social, environmental and economic aspects of the ethanol sector.

Together with the recent increase in interest, the sector is facing a paradigm change based on a new set of still non-commercial technologies, of which hydrolysis of cellulosic biomass is an important example. This situation evidences the necessity of an articulated national effort, with the participation of the scientific and technological community in academia and in industry, to guarantee the maintenance of Brazil's leadership role in the sugar and ethanol production.


Custos de produção de Etanol
Figure 1. Ethanol cost production, US$ per US gallon (source: World Watch 2006,

Production costs, though still favoring the Brazilian model, are progressively being eroded when compared, for example, with large scale maize ethanol production in the USA (Figure 1), even though these costs are affected by intense government subsidizing in the USA.

There is much to be gained in from scientific and technological efforts for ethanol in Brazil, but in order to maintain the leadership in sugarcane and ethanol production costs Brazil needs to intensify its R&D activities.

The FAPESP Program for Research on Ethanol (BIOEN) aims at articulating public and private R&D, using academic and industrial laboratories to advance and apply knowledge in fields related to ethanol production in Brazil. BIOEN includes five divisions:

  1. Biomass to Energy Division (with a focus on sugarcane);
  2. Biofuel Fabrication Processes Division;
  3. Division of Ethanol applications for motor vehicles: Internal Combustion Engines and Fuel Cells;
  4. Bio-refineries and Alcohol-chemistry Divisions; and
  5. Broad Impacts Division: Social and Economic Impacts, Environmental studies, and Land Use.

In this Call for Research Proposals only proposals related to the Biomass to Energy, Biofuels Fabrication Processes and Broad Impacts Divisions are invited.

The FAPESP Program for Research on Ethanol has a solid core for supporting academic exploratory research related to these topics. It is expected that these exploratory activities will generate new knowledge and form scientists and professionals essential for advancing industry capacity in ethanol related technologies.

On top of this, the FAPESP Program for Research on Ethanol establishes partnerships with industry for cooperative R&D activities between industrial laboratories and academic laboratories at universities and research institutes, which are to be co-funded by FAPESP and industry. For theses collaborations the details for each theme are specified according to the interest of the private partners and to FAPESP commitment to fostering research in the state of São Paulo. Other research agencies from federal and other state governments were invited to participate in the FAPESP's BIOEN Program: the Ministry for Science and Technology, through CNPq, and FAPEMIG declared its interest and other agencies are studying their commitment.

2) Relevant topics for this call for research proposals

This call for research grant applications for the FAPESP Bioenergy Research Program, BIOEN, includes three of the five BIOEN divisions: Biomass to energy, Biofuel Production Processes, and Social, Economic and Environmental Impacts of Biofuels. Relevant topics for this call for research proposals are presented for each of these divisions. However, this call for research proposals is not restricted to these topics and applications that fit in any of these three divisions, but are not about these topics, might also be accepted.

The BIOEN Program will have other calls for grant applications in order to complement its research objectives and broaden its research topics.

2.1) Research on Biomass to Bioenergy

  1. Structural and functional analysis and sequencing of genomes from species of interest for the production of biofuels.
  2. Bioinformatics and computational tools for Systems Biology (genome analysis and integration, transcriptome, proteome and metabolome).
  3. Trangênicos e estudos de estabilidade de transgenes.
  4. Genetic modified organisms and transgene stability.
  5. Molecular genetics of the plant development and hormonal signaling.
  6. Photosynthesis and plant energy balance.
  7. Plant nutrition.
  8. Biogeochemistry.
  9. Crop protection against insects and nematodes.
  10. Plant pathology of the Brazilian germplasm.
  11. Search and characterization of microorganisms with potential to make useful enzymes for biofuel production, especially cellulosic ethanol.
  12. Enzyme engineering, structure and molecular evolution.
  13. The use of sugarcane as a bioreactor.
  14. Methods to enhance biomass processing.

2.2) Research on Biofuel Production Processes

  1. Hydrolysis.
  2. Gasification.
  3. Other processes to produce biofuel from biomass.
  4. New fermentation methods.
  5. Genomics of microorganisms which are important for ethanol fermentation.
  6. High-ethanol fermentation.
  7. Search for combination of microorganisms for the extraction of sugars and for fermentation.
  8. Metabolic engineering of microorganisms for production of metabolites that are relevant for the alcohol-chemical industry.
  9. Energy integration and energy savings of ethanol distillation.
  10. New strategies to control ethanol distillation.
  11. Alternative technologies in ethanol concentration, purification and dehydration (membranes and other concentration methods).
  12. Production processes of special alcohols for chemical, pharmaceutical, cosmetics and food industries.
  13. Concentration and purification processes of minor compounds in sugarcane wine.
  14. Concentration and purification processes of other metabolites with industrial value.
  15. Integration of the fermentation and pre-concentration steps in ethanol production.
  16. Concentration and use of the sugarcane wine; reduction of the generation of waste products in the ethanol production.
  17. Production of ethanol biodiesel and its integration with ethanol production.

2.3) Research on Social, Economic and Environmental Impacts of Biofuels

  1. Land use.
  2. Social impacts of biofuels.
  3. Environmental impacts.
  4. Environmental impacts of transgenic sugarcane.
  5. Energy and carbon balance.
  6. Global changes caused by the shift to new bioenergy sources.
  7. Changes in agriculture caused by the competition between food and energy.
  8. Limits to the expansion of arable land for energy crops in Brazil and in the world.
  9. Intellectual property and technology transfer.

3) Call for Research Proposals

A The State of São Paulo Research Foundation, FAPESP, makes this Call for Research Proposals public and invites the interested researchers that are associated to non-profit teaching and research institutions in the State of São Paulo to submit research proposals to the FAPESP Bioenergy Research Program, BIOEN, in the conditions described bellow.

For the Young Investigator Award proposals FAPESP will accept proposals of researchers which might not yet have a professional association to higher education or research institutions in São Paulo. However, only proposals that find such an association will be granted.

FAPESP may associate to this CFP research proposals that are under evaluation if the applicant submits a request.

4) Objectives

The main goal of this call for research proposals is to identify, select and broaden world-class, basic and applied, research associated to the topics described in the Section 2.

5) Application Requirements

The application requirements of this call for research proposals will be followed rigorously. Please, read them carefully. Applications that fail to comply with these requirements will not be considered.

  1. Applications should be presented to the FAPESP programs for Regular Grants and Young Investigator Awards (
  2. Applications for Regular Grants must be submitted by researchers from public or non-profit private higher education and research institutions in the State of São Paulo, Brazil.
  3. Applications to the Young Investigator Program must be for research projects to be developed in higher education and research institutions in the State of São Paulo, Brazil (The PI does not need to be professionally associated with the institution for submission).
  4. Applications should follow the same guidelines described in the regular programs: Research Awards or Young Researcher Awards.
  5. Conditions and restrictions for the programs specified on the item 5.a will apply unless it is explicitly said in this call for grant application.
  6. Applications submitted to the above programs that are already being analyzed by FAPESP and are related to the topics cited in this call for research proposals may be included in this call for research proposalss if the applicant submits a written requisition containing the grant number and additional documentation.

6) Characteristics of the research proposals

The grant applications should target some or all of the following research goals:

  1. New and creative solutions: the applications should not be for incremental engineering, with a guaranteed results. This program seeks research proposals that create and explore new technologies and knowledge and that contribute to the development of human resources in the field of Bioenergy. FAPESP encourages bold, novel and unconventional original approaches to address the scientific and technological challenges described in the Section 2.
  2. Communication of results: the research results should be widely communicated through relevant scientific communities using established academic channels, such as international conferences and refereed journals. All selected projects should result in a detailed Web presence and relevant conference publications or presentations. Other channels for community development include regional workshops, graduate seminars, and curriculum components such as courses or course materials.
      b.1) Association to the BIOEN program includes mandatory presence in workshops and work meetings. The Head Researchers shall stimulate the participation of all their students and postdoctoral researchers attached to the selected grants.

7) Benefits and obligations specific to the BIOEN Program

7.1) Attendance on BIOEN Program Workshops
The BIOEN Program will have periodic workshops with mandatory attendance for all the PI's involved with the program and, in some cases, their collaborators and students. These Workshops will be a special opportunity to be updated about the research conducted in the field and to have access to new data and information before they are published.

7.2) Database access
a) The PI's associated with the BIOEN Program, associated researchers, and their students will have privileged access to information and knowledge generated by the other researchers in the Program.
b) The researchers associated with the BIOEN Program will sign a non-disclosure agreement that will guarantee the confidentiality of all the data accessible through the BIOEN Program database.

7.3) BIOEN Program Terms of Acceptance
The researchers and institutions will join the BIOEN Program under the following terms:
a) The results obtained will be allowed to integrate the BIOEN-FAPESP Information System immediately.
b) Title for intellectual property originated from the BIOEN Program will be shared among the research institutions that host the selected proposals.
c) The attendance to BIOEN Program Workshops will be mandatory
d) The Scientific Committee of the BIOEN Program will be notified whenever results that require securing intellectual property rights are obtained.

8) Funds available for this Call for Research Proposals

a) The total amount of resources available for the grants selected by this call for research proposals is 10 million Reais (approximately equivalent to US$ 6 million).
b) The appropriateness of the requested funding amount in relation to the proposal goals and qualification of the proposing team is a primary review consideration.
c) FAPESP reserves the right to propose lower funding levels for some of the proposals.

9) Allowable Costs

The following items that can be included in the budget:

  1. Costs: all the costs that are traditionally funded by FAPESP in the programs chosen by the applicant and described at
  2. Fellowships:
      b.1) Technical Training Fellowship may be solicited to be funded by FAPESP following the rules established for Research Awards or Young Researcher Awards.
      b.2) In both cases, the duration of the fellowship cannot be longer than the duration of the grant. The supervisors/advisors must be the researchers associated with the grant.

10) Proposal formatting

10.1) Project Duration

  1. The grants submitted as Research Award will have a maximum duration of 24 months.
  2. The grants submitted as Young Researcher Award will have a maximum duration of 48 months.

10.2) Proposal language and formatting

  1. Grant proposals must be submitted in English, with exception of items 10.3.a and 10.3.b, as non-Brazilian reviewers may be used.
  2. Grant proposals must be submitted in hard copy and the items 10.3.a to 10.3.e in must also be submitted as an electronic copy in a single .PDF file, burned in a CD.
  3. All text that have a limited number of pages must be written in Times New Roman with font size 11, or equivalent, and 1.5 paragraph spacing.

10.3) Required Documents, and Project and Budget Organization

  1. FAPESP form to submit Research Awards and Young Research Awards (available at ).
  2. FAPESP form to present research staff (available at
  3. Curriculum Vitae FAPESP (in english) for the Head Researcher and the other associated researcher.
  4. Executive Summary in English (maximum two pages) containing:
      d.1) Grant proposal title
      d.2) Aims
      d.3) Total budget
      d.4) Topic of the project - it is essential to explicit any association between the proposal and the items listed in Section 2
      d.5) Main goals
      d.6) Specific goals
      d.7) Significance and relevance for the Bioenergy field
      d.8) Expected results and products to be obtained in 2, 5 and 10 years
      d.9) Current grants (from FAPESP and other funding agencies)

  5. Grant Proposal (in English): must be written in English and must cover the items 1 to 15 of the guidelines described in the Appendix I of this call for research proposals. The items 1 to 12 must not occupy more than 30 pages, written in Times New Roman, font size 11 and 1.5 paragraph spacing. Please use the headings listed in the items 1 to 15 of Appendix I as the section headings.

11) Intellectual property rights FAPESP IP rules will apply to this program

FAPESP will communicate CNPq of all intellectual property registration or resources generated by the selected applications. A summary of these rules are:

  1. If the Institution where the research will be conducted has a department responsible for the search and management of intellectual property registration opportunities that is certified by FAPESP, the foundation agrees that this Institution may retain its legal rights from intellectual properties developed by researchers that are funded by Research Awards and Young Researcher Awards. This is done as an incentive to the development and communication of inventions, software and publications in order to increase their application, accessibility and development.

      a.1) This incentive does not reduce the responsibility that the PI's, their teams and their Institutions have, as members of the research community, to share their results, data and collections with other researchers, while at the same time protecting their intellectual property rights.

  2. The holder of the intellectual property generated in the selected applications may be the Institution where the research was conducted if the Institution has a department that searches and manages intellectual property rights that is certified by FAPESP.
  3. Due to its multi-institutional nature, the BIOEN Program will require an agreement between the Institutions where the research will be conducted and FAPESP about the management and the division of resources resulted by the intellectual property. This agreement will be an eligibility requirement when joining the BIOEN Program. FAPESP will coordinate the formal proceedings towards this agreement.
  4. It's the responsibility of the researchers in charge of the awards and fellowships granted by FAPESP to be aware, at any given time, if their projects will or has the possibility to generate results that can be turned into a Patent, Model Utility, Industrial Design Right or any other form of Intellectual Right registration.
  5. If the Head Researcher considers that the publication of results from a grant or FAPESP fellowship in journals, conference annals, dissertation, thesis or other divulgation formats, may damage the process of gaining Intellectual Property rights over knowledge generated with the FAPESP funds, the researcher must notify FAPESP or the Institution where the research is being conducted with anticipation in order to FAPESP or the Institution to guarantee the protection of the Intellectual Property right without hurting the publication.
  6. It is FAPESP and CNPq policy to have the right to a share of resources resulted from the Intellectual Property right from the selected applications.

12) Communications regarding this call for research proposals

12.1) Application submission

The applications must be submitted to FAPESP through the following address:

    Rua Pio XI, 1500 - Alto da Lapa
    CEP 05468-901 - São Paulo - SP

12.2) Queries:

Please, send all queries about this call for research proposals to In order to make the response faster, please use "BIOEN/FAPESP call" as the email subject.

Queries for this call for research grant proposals will be dealt by:

13) Review process

All the applications that are eligible to this call for grant proposals will be reviewed in two steps:

13.1) Adequacy to the BIOEN Program

  1. The application adequacy to the BIOEN program will be reviewed by the BIOEN Scientific Committee, that will write a conclusive report which will be used during the decision process.
  2. If the application is considered inadequate to the BIOEN program, the application will be analyzed as if it was submitted to a regular Research Award or Young Scientist Award without the specificities that are applied to the BIOEN program.
  3. The BIOEN Scientific Committee will analyze the application adequacy following the criteria bellow:
      c.1) the grant application importance in relation to the Bioenergy field;
      c.2) the potential to collaborate to current grants funded by the BIOEN program;
      c.3) the perspective to integrate the grant application with current grants funded by the BIOEN program; and
      c.4) How the BIOEN program can contribute to the grant application.

13.2) Review of the grant applications considered adequate by the BIOEN Program

The merit of each application will be reviewed in sessions of comparative analysis. These sessions will use peer review reports from ad-hoc reviewers from FAPESP´s Assistant and Subject Coordination following the selection criteria used in applications in regular Research Awards or Young Researcher Awards.
The researchers that apply for grants in this call will not be part of the selection and review process.
All the applications will be analyzed using the following criteria, in addition to the criteria specific to the regular Research Awards or Young Researcher Awards:

  1. Adequacy to the terms specified in this call;
  2. Originality and audacity of the proposed grant regarding the chosen field of research, clarity of the objectives of the research that will, if succeed, have the potential to be a breakthrough in the research area.
  3. Research project quality regarding the clarity of the objectives, the challenges to be faced, and the methods and materials to be used in comparison to the field state-of-the-art.
  4. Adequacy to the infra-structure of the institution where the research will be conducted.
  5. Head Researcher and team qualifications evaluated by prior research results in the relevant areas, success in previous grants, awards, teaching activity recognition, and publications using the Curriculum Vitae of the main researchers.
  6. Project viability, including budget adequacy, institutional support, reasonable timetables, size and quality of the team, amount of financial resources and efficient use of resources.
  7. Potential for ample use and dissemination of the generated Intellectual Property, including plans for research publication, conference presentations, and plans for content distribution in multiple formats and medias.
  8. Training of new researchers and personnel, during the project execution.

14) Schedules

The applications may be submitted following two different schedules:

    14.1) Schedule A:

    The total amount of funds for this schedule is R$ 5 millions Brazilian Reals.



    Publication of the call for research applications at FAPESP website.

    July 3rd 2008

    Last day to submit applications

    September 1st 2008

    Release of results of the review process

    until January 5 th 2009

    14.2) Schedule B:

    The total amount of funds for this schedule is R$ 5 millions Brazilian Reals.



    Publication of the call for research applications at FAPESP website

    July 3rd 2008

    Last day to submit applications

    November 10th 2008

    Release of results of the review process

    until March 23 th 2009


15) Results communication

Final results will be published at FAPESP website (, and through direct communication with the parts.

16) Grants, progress analysis and evaluation

If the application is approved, a Grant Contract will be made, which will be signed by the Head Researcher and the Institution representative.

The results will be evaluated by progress reports and financial reports that should be submitted in the dates established in the Grant Contract.

17) Grant Cancelation

The grant may be cancelled by FAPESP if a significant event justifies its cancellation in the opinion of FAPESP Scientific Management without reducing the possibility of other sanctions.


1. BEN, Balanço Energético Nacional, consultado em 21/06/2008 em

2. Isaias C. Macedo, Joaquim E.A. Seabra, João E.A.R. Silva, “Green house gases emissions in the production and use of ethanol from sugarcane in Brazil: The 2005/2006 averages and a prediction for 2020”, Biomass and Bioenergy (2008), doi:10.1016/j.biombioe.2007.12.006.