Natural rubber (NR) is an essential renewable material for more than 40,000 products essential to building (adhesives, sealants), medicine (gloves, tubing), and transportation (matting, tyres) industries. In many applications NR cannot be replaced by synthetic rubbers. At the moment NR is harvested exclusively from the rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis) of which 90% is grown in South East Asia. Worldwide NR consumption is forecasted to increase significantly. At the moment the EU is completely dependent on imports of NR.
The successful EU-PEARLS project, which finished in 2012, demonstrated the viability of a new NR producing concept: Russian dandelion (Taraxacum koksaghyz , abbreviated TKS). Not demonstrated in the EU-PEARLS project, but of equal importance in the construction of the TKS business case, is the fact that TKS is also a promising new crop for biomass derived building blocks for the chemical industry via the production of inulin.
The strategic objective of EU-DRIVE is to demonstrate the economic potential of a European production chain for natural rubber and inulin as building block for green chemicals, using TKS as a dual purpose production platform.
The main deliverables of DIRVE4EU are: (1) plant genotypes with high root biomass, high rubber and inulin yield, (2) seed batches for agronomic tests and large scale demo field trials, (3) optimized cultivation and harvest methods for TKS, (4) ecological analysis of the gene flow between TKS and wild dandelions, (5) scaled-up and optimised extraction and refinery protocol for TKS NR and inulin, (6) testing and application of TKS NR and inulin in end product uses, (7) demonstration of the economic viability of the TKS production chain for NR and inulin.
To reach the objective a strong consortium of 8 industrial partners and 5 research organisations from 7 EU countries and Kazakhstan is constructed with a very broad background from bioscience to the rubber industry.