SUNRISE: Solar Energy for a Circular Economy

Six CSA projects were selected for the 2018 call “FETFLAG-01-2018” within one of the three main research areas proposed: Information and communication technology (ICT) and Connected Society; Health and Life Sciences; and Energy, Environment and Climate Change. These actions 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, science- driven, long-term research projects focused on addressing the major European societal challenges and turning scientific advances into concrete innovation opportunities, growth and jobs. Sunrise, in which ICIQ participates, is one of these Six CSA projects.

SUNRISE, as part of the Energy, Environment and Climate Change area, gathers players from academia, industry, policy-making and society to prepare a strategic long-term research roadmap and a consolidated vision of a future large research project. SUNRISE aims at providing a sustainable alternative to the fossil-based, energy- intensive production of fuels and chemicals, based on solar energy conversion and widely available feedstock (CO2, H2O, N2). A sustainable CO2 cycle, which leads to an atmospheric CO2 concentration decrease and stabilisation at a level compatible with climate stability, is the main target behind this approach, which also aims for a sustainable use of land and natural resources to implement a circular economy.

SUNRISE will facilitate the transition to a circular economy and a carbon-neutral society. The disruptive energy technologies developed as part of the project will transform carbon dioxide, water, nitrogen, and oxygen feedstocks 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.

“SUNRISE goal is to change the way fuels are produced, and provide chemicals and much more for the circular economy with very high yield directly from abundant solar energy and atmospheric gases. 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” – Prof. Huub de Groot, SUNRISE coordinator.

On November 15th 2018, the consortium organised a SUNRISE meeting gathering around 90 members of the SUNRISE community in Brussels. Fruitful discussions on the project’s vision, mission and strategy were held by project partners and supporters (the detailed agenda and copies of the presentations are available for download under This was the first step for building a strong and actively growing “SUNRISE ecosystem”, which will be essential to achieve the ambitious objectives of a future long-term research project. Currently, the SUNRISE initiative already counts with the support of more than 150 institutions worldwide, including academic centres, industrial companies, strategic networks, funding bodies, ministries and NGOs.

At the end of the CSA, the SUNRISE community will release a blueprint for the implementation of the SUNRISE large scale initiative, including a description of the short to long-term objectives, resources needed and the criteria to be followed for being an open, inclusive and cross-disciplinary effort following the Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) principles.