Boosting the efficiency of photosynthesis

Agricultural productivity that does not keep up with the current population increase, the growing demand for biomass production (as feedstock for biofuels) and the nonstop rise of global CO2 emissions with its consequences for climate change, are all circumstances that make it urgent to increase the yield of biomass. Indeed, increased agricultural yield efficiency can have huge impacts in a society driven by the bio-economy.

Plants use photosynthesis to grow, converting energy from the sun into storable carbohydrates. Chloroplasts are the minute energy factories in the plant leaves that absorb the sun’s energy, release oxygen into the air and use hydrogen plus CO2 to make the compounds that plants need to grow. Biotechnology has succeeded in the engineering of nuclear and chloroplasts genomes for the production of enzymes, raw materials and building blocks for the chemical industry. However, research to increase the efficiency of the enzymes that drive photosynthesis has not yet produced the desired results. Currently available ground-breaking and disruptive technologies coupled with the integration of knowledge from diverse scientific disciplines have the potential to propose new solutions to boost the efficiency of photosynthesis.


Proposals should work towards the optimisation of photosynthesis by capitalising on multidisciplinary approaches, such as functional genomics, systems biology, metabolic modelling, enzyme engineering, computational biology, synthetic biology, directed evolution and gene editing techniques.

Proposals should work with plants or algae and deal with any of the biological components underlying the diversity of photosynthesis. Proposals can involve new strategies to engineer the chloroplast genome, new strategies to engineer relevant enzymes, the development of metabolic models that contribute to a higher understanding of the properties of photosynthesis, among others.

Proposals should cover at least one of the following:

  • new tools improving the performance of the catalytic enzymes involved in photosynthesis;
  • new tools to increase the rate of CO2-fixation;
  • engineered enzymes for novel CO2-fixation pathways.

Proposals should include Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH) elements regarding the technologies used and the environmental and socio-economic impact of the expected output.

Proposals submitted under this topic should include actions designed to facilitate cooperation with other projects; to enhance user involvement; and to ensure the accessibility and reusability of data produced in the course of the project.

Activities should start at TRL 3 and achieve TRL 5 at the end of the project.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU between EUR 6 and 8 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

Expected Impact

  • A strategy based on the new resources to obtain an enhanced photosynthetic efficiency of at least 10% under diverse environmental conditions;
  • A detailed and accurate research and innovation roadmap to attain higher photosynthetic performance for applicable results in the field by 2030.

Relevant indicators and metrics, with baseline values, should be clearly stated in the proposal.

Cross-cutting Priorities

  • Socio-economic science and humanities
  • Open Innovation
  • Blue Growth
Application date
Social sciences : Economy, Environmental Sciences, Gender studies, Identities, gender and sexuality, Geography, Sociology
Other : Biology