Utrecht University: 4 million euro grant to accelerate innovation on solar fuels and chemicals

To mitigate climate change, our society must reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and find solutions to move away from fossil resources, while undergoing a gradual transition from a linear to a circular economy. To this end, the deployment of renewable energy needs to be supplemented with technologies for the large-scale production of sustainable chemical energy carriers such as green hydrogen and carbon-based fuels and chemicals.

Solar fuels provide drop-in solutions to help society to transition towards circularity
This is necessary to efficiently store renewable energy, supply fuels to sectors and processes that are difficult to electrify, and create non-fossil carbon feedstock for the chemical industry. In fact, solar energy can be used to transform abundantly available compounds such as carbon dioxide, water and nitrogen into renewable fuels, materials and chemicals.

These so-called solar fuels and chemicals are most often analogous to their fossil counterparts and can be incorporated into the existing energy value chains with minimal adjustments to the existing infrastructure. Thus, solar fuels provide drop-in solutions to help society to transition towards circularity, increase Europe’s energy sovereignty and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

Balanced partnership
To accelerate innovation in the sector of solar fuels and chemicals, the 3-year SUNER-C project has been funded by the European Union (EU). The SUNER-C consortium is a unique and balanced partnership of 31 organisations, bringing together a large diversity of partners, expertise, fields, and representatives of all the EU regions. The consortium consists of 13 academic partners, 13 industrial companies, 4 network organisations and federations, and 1 Non-Governmental Organisation.

We have to make our manufacturing processes for fuels, chemicals and materials more sustainable. This programme will help us to foster this important transition


Prof. Bert Weckhuysen
Debye Institute for Nanomaterials Science
“We have to make our manufacturing processes for fuels, chemicals and materials more sustainable”, says Prof. Bert Weckhuysen, Distinguished Professor at Utrecht University and coordinator of SUNERGY. “The granted SUNER-C programme will help us to foster this important transition by bringing key players together, develop with them the necessary roadmaps, as well as lay the foundation for a large R&D initiative within Europe.”

Fundamental and applied knowledge
The overarching objective of the SUNER-C project is to create an inclusive innovation community and ecosystem that builds on the current SUNERGY network and includes new stakeholders across Europe. Bringing together fundamental and applied knowledge from various sectors of the society as well as often unique resources, the enhanced community will prepare a large-scale European joint action.

Accelerate innovation
The goal is to overcome scientific, technological, organizational and socio-economic challenges, accelerate innovation in solar fuels and chemicals, and enable the transition of existing and future technologies from laboratory and demonstrator level to industrial-scale application.

The SUNER-C consortium will also work on the development of a strategic roadmap towards the broad implementation of solar fuels and chemicals, with supporting strategies for innovation and exploitation, with a firm focus on cross-cutting and socio-technical aspects.

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