BioWILL - An Integrated Zero Waste Biorefinery

Project Summary

Project Summary

What is BioWILL?

BioWILL is a Interreg NWE funded project focusing on Integrated "Zero Waste" Biorefinery utilising all fractions of Willow feedstock for the production of high to medium based Bio-Chemicals/Materials, Renewable Energy in the form of Bio Methane production and Natural Fertilisers.

BioWILL consists of 10 project partners in four countries across Northwest Europe (Belgium, France, Ireland and United Kingdom).


Why is the project necessary?

Existing biorefinery technologies focus on food waste (AgriChemWhey), algae (Abacus), forestry residue (Bioforever) for the production of biopolymers, chemicals e.g. butanol, resin acids or lignin. BioWill will focus on high value bioactive extractives (salicins) for medical applications while using the bark-free pulp for manufacturing food packaging materials with any waste and residues used for biogas and biofertilizers.

There is no extractive based cascade biorefinery within the EU, its establishment & replicability will be of significant economic benefit. Willow bark is one of the few plant materials to contain substances (salicins) which are as effective as synthetic equivalents for analgesic & anti-inflammatory properties, with fewer undesirable side effects. 


How can BioWILL help?

BioWILL will deliver a biorefinery model for Northwest Europe using Willow, by producing high value salicylates from willow bark for medical applications. The bark residue and bark-free willow pulp will be converted into safe food quality packaging material to replace fossil derived plastics. The end of life packaging will be hydrolysed and used as a feedstock in an innovative bio-energy anaerobic digestion system producing biogas suitable for grid injection. Technology demonstrations will validate how technology integration can increase efficiency, qualifying as “best available practice”. Intensive market, regulatory, financial, technical & environmental analysis will produce a “toolkit” (LCAs, business models, etc) for dissemination to all market actors via an extensive communications programme. 


Project Partners

Lead partner

Organisation Address Email Website
University of Limerick Castletroy
V94 T9PX
Name Contact Name Email Country
Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute Chris Johnston United Kingdom
Cellulac PLC Gerard Brandon United Kingdom
Epitheal Ltd John Prendergast Ireland
Gas Networks Ireland Ian Kilgallon Ireland
Bangor University Adam Charlton United Kingdom
Materia Nova Olivier Talon Olivier.Talon@MATERIANOVA.BE Belgium
European Landowners' Organization Marie-Alice Budniok Belgium
University College Cork Cathal O'Mahony Ireland
Agriland Damien Deriberolles France
Renewable Gas Forum Ireland PJ McCarthy Ireland
Crops4Energy Kevin Lindegaard United Kingdom
Helicon Process Development Solutions Peter Holly Ireland
IT Tralee - Shannon ABC Niall Burke Ireland

You can click on the name of the organisation to find out more about the role of each partner within the project.

University of Limerick

The University of Limerick (UL) was established in 1972 as an independent, internationally focussed university with over 11,600 students and 1,300 staff. Its mission is to promote and advance learning and knowledge through teaching, research and scholarship in an environment which encourages innovation and upholds the principles of free enquiry and expression. Particular attention is paid to the generation of knowledge for the needs of Ireland's continuing socio-economic development.

Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute

Leading provider of scientific research and services to Govt, Non-Govt and commercial organisations. AFBI specialises in areas of Environmental Protection, Grassland & Plant Sciences, Sustainable Livestock, Animal Health & Welfare, Fisheries and Aquatic Ecosystems, Food Quality and Safety & Economics. AFBI currently researches the use of Willow corps for Environmental protection and sustainable bioremediation solutions for the agri, landbased, water utility and environmental sectors.

Cellulac PLC

Cellulac is a vertically integrated group of companies based in the United Kingdom. Activities undertaken by these companies range from the production of biodegradable plastic ingredients and natural-oils to expertise in consumer marketing in cosmetics, food and health care industries. The production division capabilities include process engineering, chemical engineering, biochemistry and polymer science.

Epitheal Ltd

Epitheal is a science driven dermatology company, researching and developing formulations to promote healthy skin focusing on conditions using natural compounds as the basis of their research such as salicylic acid. Epitheal also focus on the varying application of natural compounds treating a wide range of diseases worldwide.

Gas Networks Ireland

Gas Networks Ireland's core purpose is to ensure that over 673,000 homes and businesses receive a secure supply of natural gas, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Gas Networks Ireland own, operate, build and maintain the natural gas network in Ireland and connect all customers to the network. In Ireland, Networks runs the transmission system, which is linked to the UK and Europe. Gas Networks Ireland is a regulated utility, regulated under license by the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER).

Bangor University

The remit of the Biorefining-Technology Transfer Centre (TTC) has since broadened to include work on the wider aspects of biorefining, including biomass fractionation and the study of a wide range of biobased products for applications across many different sectors. These include the use of plant fibres and biopolymers such as PLA and starch for food/ materials packaging and he extraction of speciality chemicals from biomass using supercritical carbon dioxide technology, for the cosmetics sector.

Materia Nova

Materia Nova is a Research Centre that plays a bridging role between fundamental research and industrial development in various fields such as polymer engineering, surface treatments, biomaterials, biotechnology and eco-design of innovation. Materia Nova is involved in both B2B industrial projects and collaborative public funded projects. The YLCA unit of Materia Nova has been involved in collaborative R&D projects monitoring those by providing environmental evaluation (LCA) and eco-design.

European Landowners' Organization

ELO is committed to promoting a sustainable and prosperous countryside and to increasing awareness relating to environmental and agricultural issues. Engaging various stakeholders, ELO develops policy recommendations and programmes of action. ELO organises interdisciplinary meetings gathering together key actors from the rural sector and policy makers at the local, regional, national and European level. Its ability to do all of this assures ELO its unique position among the think tanks.

University College Cork

MaREI is a centre of excellence for marine and renewable energy research, development, and innovation. The Centre is multi-disciplinary comprising research groups and industry partners, with the shared mission of solving the main scientific, technical and socio-economic challenges facing marine and energy sectors. Bioenergy is a core research area with a focus on renewable gaseous biofuel production from 2nd generation biofuel substrates such as wastes, agricultural residues and energy crops.


For more than 30 years, Agriland SA role is to review the operating scheme of these farms. Land improvement operations and the introduction of new crops are carried out under our control while preserving the agronomic value of the land and improving the biodiversity and managing the climate challenges. In addition, we are active in many associations. AGRILAND is a member of Friends of the Countryside and de facto active in the European Landowners' Organization.

Shannon Applied Biotechnology Centre (ABC) is an Enterprise Ireland funded Technology Gateway, and Research Centre, that is a collaboration between the Institute of Technology, Tralee and Limerick Institute of Technology. Shannon ABC’s vision is to be a leading centre for the development and application of science and technology to applied settings, in collaboration with external organisations, and based on our own research. Shannon ABC responds to the challenges of biotech, food and life science industries through the sustainable development of viable and cost-effective processes and products from bio-resources. This collaborative and risk management approach improves our client’s competitiveness and competence and facilitates the transfer of these innovative scientific solutions.


Helicon Process Development Services is a dynamic and innovative partner in the world of process engineering support services. From concept design to project delivery we are here to provide the technical and organizational supports and skills that are required to meet the challenges that arise with every project. We work to transform basic science into commercial reality. Our skill in project managing technical transfer, scale-up and the design of unit operations is complemented by our ability to manage the construction of a working facility including the building fabric and services needed to support that facility.  



Our New Newsletter!

We are thrilled to announce the release of our most recent newsletter, where you can learn all about our project. Take a look at it by clicking on the link here, and don't forget to subscribe! 

3rd Project Banner

We have created our project's 3rd banner, make sure to take a look at it here, and do not hesitate to reach out to us should you wish to have it for your event! 

28 February 2022: Northern France Field Visit

Recently members of BioWill visited the trial site in Northern France to discuss the progress, challenges and future actions to be taken at the site. During this visit, it was highlighted just how big of a problem pests, in this case, rabbits, can have on willow production. By navigating this challenge, an updated plan will help see better growth and development of willow at this Northern France trial site.

BioWILL Newsletter Nr 04

The fourth BioWILL Newsletter is available on all the project progress to date. Read it here. 

Bangor University - BioComposites Video

Our partners Bangor University and Bio-Composites Bangor have made a short film highlighting the type of research that they are involved in at the Bio-Composites Bangor pilot-scale facility on the Island of Anglesey and linked to the bioeconomy. Click HERE for the video.

BioWILL Newsletter Nr 03

The third BioWILL Newsletter is available on all the project progress to date. Read it here. 

May 27: BioWILL present at the ELO Solutions Workshop

We are very pleased to announce that our very own Prof. J.J. Leahy will be representing our BioWILL Project at the Solutions Workshop, organised by the European Landowners’ Organization (ELO), on May 27th!

The workshop offers a transdisciplinary approach at solving the biodiversity crisis: an interactive round-table discussion, bringing together insights, tools, solutions, and strategies from projects across Europe and beyond! Doing so, the workshop aims to build synergies amongst European rural development projects, as well as insights from the audience, to help build a path forward in terms of solving the biodiversity crisis.

For too long, EU-funded projects have worked as sole entities attempting to tackle global challenges. With this workshop, they will come together, and set the path for a more sustainable future.

We hope to see you there!


TITLE: ELO Solutions Workshop: Insights from EU Projects on Co-designing Research with Rural Actors

DATE: Thursday, 27 May 2021

TIME: 14:30-15:30 CEST / 13:30-14:30 WEST

LOCATION: Online (GoToWebinar). Register here.

PURPOSE: A transdisciplinary approach at solving the biodiversity crisis: an interactive round-table discussion, bringing together insights, tools, solutions, and strategies from projects across Europe and beyond.

LANGUAGES: English, with Portuguese translations

May 26: Visit BioWILL at the (virtual) Regional Forum for the Future of Agriculture (FFA)

We are happy to announce the our BioWILL project will be represented a the Regional Forum for the Future of Agriculture (FFA) on May 26th!

Make sure to pop by our (virtual) stand to learn more about the project and maybe have a chat with a representative of the project to gain more insight on our updates.


The FFA2021 Regional Portugal event will take place on May 26th 2021 from 10:30 – 13:00 CEST (09:30 – 12:00 WEST) and will cover the following topics:

  • Farming practices in Southern Europe with sustainable water use and farmland habitat management
  • Increasing sustainability standards through trade deals
  • A chance to tour the virtual venue and visit BioWILL (and other projects) on the exhibition stand, download recipes, and network with colleagues in the virtual lounge.


For more details on this event click here.

To register now for all events click here.

BioWILL Newsletter Nr 02

The second BioWILL Newsletter is available on all the project progress to date. Read it here!

BioWILL Field Trial Progress

August 2020

The project members involved with willow field trials had a Videocon catchup the week of Aug 31. The trials are well established with 99.5% strike rate by the cuttings! These are amazing results considering 5000 planted at each trial, COVID-19, late planting and a very dry spring!

Here are a couple of pictures (Photo 1 & Photo 2) of the other plots. They are doing very nicely with only limited grass weeds. Some are over 2 m high after 4 months of growth from planting the cuttings.

Stay tuned for more updates on the field trials in France, Ireland and Northern Ireland!

BioWILL Newsletter Nr 01

The first BioWILL Newsletter is available on all the project progress to date. Read it here. 

In the Press

Here is where published scientific publications related to the project will appear.

Identification of high-value bioactive constituents in Northern European willow varieties: S.X. Dasyclados, Endeavour, Cheviot, Tora, Resolution, S. Purpurea, Terranova, endurance


Willow trees have maintained their place in medicine for many years as they are herbal source of various cures. Willow varieties are considered to contain a wide range of anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial species such as salicylates and flavonoids. The current work is centred on the presence of high bioactive pharmaceutical constituents other than salicin such as flavan-3-ol catechin, salicortin, and other complex compounds, which contribute to the total medical value of willow extracts. To evaluate the distribution of these bioactives, bark, and wood fractions of 8 different willow varieties (S.X. Dasyclados, Endeavour, Cheviot, Tora, Resolution, S. Purpurea, Terranova, Endurance) were extracted using dispersive solid phase extraction and then analysed using LC-MS comprising a quadrupole time-of-flight spectrometer. Indeed, various high value constituents such as salicortin, catechin, triandrin, acacetin-5-O-xyloside, picein, apigenin-7-O-glucoside, vitexin-2-rhamnoside, luteolin-7-glucoside, catechin gallate, and kaempferol as well as giberellic and 5-methoxysalicylic acid were detected in bark and wood fractions of the willow varieties 80:20 ethanol/water extracts.


Link to publication

Industrial Crops & Products: A review of Willow (Salix spp.) as an integrated biorefinery feedstock

Recently BioWill has published a paper on the use of willow as a biorefinery feedstock. Check out the document attached.


Throughout history, the genus Salix (willow) has been an incredibly useful temperate plant for humans, with widespread global distribution and species indigenous to all continents except Antarctica. Estimations of the number of species range from 450 to 520 worldwide, and there are still more natural hybrids and multi-hybrid combinations. Several biomass willow breeding programmes have been established across the globe. All of these attempt to produce fast-growing, high-yielding stems with a straight habit and minimal side branching that are highly adaptable to different sites and are also disease and pest resistant. Short rotation coppice (SRC)  cultivation involves growing willow at close spacings with a stocking rate of around 15,000 per hectare with harvests every 2–4 years. The crop is mechanically harvested, typically using a forager, and material has recently been used for bioenergy applications. Trial plots have achieved yields of up to 20 odt/ha/yr, whilst well-tended commercial crops have yielded up to 14 odt/ha/yr. Global willow breeding programmes have produced a wide variety of commercial genotypes that have suitable properties for easy planting and harvesting and have the added benefit of elevated levels of bioactive compounds, including salicin, present in the bark, which can be used in medical and veterinary applications. These high-yielding willow varieties grow well in the wetter regions of the globe, including NW Europe, and afford multiple harvests before re-planting. Salix’s versatility and adaptability and the SRC cultivation process make them an ideal candidate feedstock for use in an integrated biorefinery to produce a range of biobased materials, including pharmaceuticals, and biocomposites, fuels, energy and fertiliser.

Link to Publication

New Newsletter!

We are happy to announce that our new newsletter is here! Take a look by clicking on this link!

Our 4th Newsletter

Our fourth project newsletter can be found here



Our new and updated brochure is now available!


Take a look at our new poster!

Take a look at our 2nd roll-up banner!

We have just created our third roll-up banner, take a look here


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