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SUNRISE: from sunlight to smart city

The European Project SUNRISE, ‘Solar energy for a circular economy’, has been selected as one of the six Coordination and Support Actions (CSA) within the Horizon 2020 programme of the European Commission. Funded with 1 million euros, it will set the base for a large scale European research project. SUNRISE aims to develop technologies to convert and store solar energy in order to provide a sustainable alternative for the fossil-based, energy-intensive production of fuels and chemicals.

From sunlight to fuel

SUNRISE aims at providing a sustainable alternative to the fossil-based, energy-intensive production of fuels and base chemicals. The technologies to be developed will transform widely available carbon dioxide, water, nitrogen and oxygen feedstock into fuels and chemicals using sunlight. In order to achieve this, the team wants to use renewable power to drive electrochemical conversion with electrolysers, develop artificial photosynthetic systems and implement biohybrid approaches. The main target is a sustainable CO2 cycle, to eliminate CO2 emissions and eventually stabilise at a level compatible with climate stability. Furthermore, SUNRISE also aims to ensure the sustainable use of land and natural resources to implement a circular economy.

Climate neutral

Leiden biophysicist Huub de Groot is the coordinator of SUNRISE. ‘Our goal is to change the way fuels are produced, and provide chemicals and much more for the future circular economy with very high yield directly from abundant solar energy and atmospheric gases’, he says. ‘In the foreseeable future, a portfolio of SUNRISE technologies will fuel carbon neutral industries in smart liveable cities that go well beyond current imagination. We will provide seasonal energy storage in a zero waste society while reducing CO2 emissions.’ This vision is fully aligned with the recently released European Commission long-term strategy for a climate neutral Europe by 2050.

SUNRISE will facilitate the transition to a circular economy and a carbon neutral society. The technologies to be developed will transform carbon dioxide, water, nitrogen and oxygen feedstock into fuels and chemicals using sunlight. Electrochemical conversion using renewable power in combination with electrolysers will be complemented with integrated artificial photosynthetic systems and biohybrid approaches for the direct conversion of sunlight into chemical compounds.


The project also receives support from the League of European Research Universities (LERU). De Groot: ‘LERU raised our plan at an early stage at the EU. As coordinator of SUNRISE, I am very happy with their support. In addition to the substantive contribution to top research that we can expect from them, LERU stands for ensuring high scientific quality across a wide range of scientific disciplines. We will very much need this to separate facts and opinions so we can set the research priorities for the transition to a circular economy and carbon neutral sustainable society.’

Visionairy research

Six CSA projects have been selected for the 2018 call ‘FETFLAG-01-2018’ within one of the three main research areas proposed: ICT and Connected Society; Health and Life Sciences; and Energy, Environment and Climate Change. SUNRISE belongs to this last area. All projects aim at preparing new European large scale research initiatives to be potentially supported in the next European research and innovation framework programme, Horizon Europe. The selected proposals are urged to set the basis for large, visionary, long-term research projects focused on addressing the major European societal challenges and turning scientific advances into concrete innovation opportunities, growth and jobs.

Source: https://www.sunriseaction.com. Press release: here


SUNRISE is coordinated by Huub de Groot from Leiden University. It joins together stakeholders from academia, industry, policy and society, including NGOs and global players in the energy, chemicals and automotive sectors. The project aims to develop the Science and Technology roadmap of a large research initiative within the Energy, Environment and Climate Change area of the FETFLAG-01-2018. Starting in spring 2019, the project will last one year.

SUNRISE brings together a multidisciplinary consortium of 20 partners from 13 European countries. This consortium includes:

  • 7 universities - University of Uppsala, Imperial College of London, University of Turku, University of Warsaw, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, University of Louvain and Leiden University;
  • 8 research organisations - French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), Italian National Research Council (CNR), Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (Empa), IMDEA Energy Institute, Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH, J. Heyrovský Institute of Physical Chemistry and Institute of Chemical Research of Catalonia;
  • 2 European associations - European Energy Research Alliance, EERA; Energy Materials Industrial Research Initiative (EMIRI) and
  • 3 companies - Siemens AG, Johnson Matthey and ENGIE.
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