BIGALPS consortium awarded EIC Transition Grant.

© 2023 EPFL

© 2023 EPFL

The Laloui Group to expand its bio-cementation technology into real-world situations with a European Innovation Council (EIC) grant.

After being awarded two prestigious European Research Council grants and developing three patents for its work in bio-cementation, EPFL's The Laloui Group will now begin field-scale pilot studies and the testing of market readiness with a European Innovation Council (EIC) Transition Grant for a new project, Bio-Inspired Geotechnical Applications To Launch Pan-European Solutions (BIGALPS).

Partnering with the Technical University of Cluj-Napoca (UTCN) and the French National Research Institute For Agriculture, Food, And Environment (INRAE), the Laloui Group aims to revolutionize the field of soil stabilization across the engineering and construction industry within Europe and globally .

The European consortium will use a technology developed by the Laloui group known as bio-cementation, an innovative nature-inspired soil improvement technique based on the metabolic activity of microorganisms, to produce calcium carbonate (CaCO3) that binds soil particles together. This technique offers a sustainable, non-polluting, and cost-effective alternative to traditional soil improvement techniques, which usually rely on introducing chemicals into soils.

Using this technology, the project has two main objectives:

  • Maturing the technology and efficiently using bio-cementation to solve real engineering problems related to current societal needs and
  • achieving market uptake of bio-cementation as an alternative to traditional cement-based soil improvement techniques.

To demonstrate the technology in real-world environments, INRAE ​​​​will develop a pilot site in France exploring erosion control. UTCN will create two pilot sites, one exploring landslide prevention and the other foundation soil improvement. These will demonstrate the diversity of problems the technology can address, how it adapts to meet specific local and regional needs, and further reveal the challenges facing the research and development and business models required to scale up and commercialize the technology.

BIGALPS consortium first meeting at EPFL, Lausanne.
© 2023 EPFL

Having developed the technology in the first place, the role of the Laloui Group is vital to ensure the success of this ambitious €1.7 million project. The group will provide the engineering design of the soil treatment for each of the three pilot projects and design production units for two different European markets - Romania and France. To do so, the team must analyze the technical performance and economic costs incurred during the pilot projects and identify margins for potential improvement. This information will allow them to validate the readiness of numerical models for bio-chemo-hydraulic processes in real geosystems and establish a set of guidelines and protocols for the implementation of the technology based on lessons learned from the project, the needs of the market and the role of local and regional based regulations.

Director of the Laloui Group, Prof. Lyesse Laloui, is keen to see it move out of the lab. “We have been working towards this moment for some time now. We have proven that the technology has enormous potential to influence the engineering and construction industries with this environmentally safe product, and we're excited to share it with the world.”

The consortium kicked off the project with a meeting at EPFL in Lausanne in November 2023. The engineering design starts immediately, with construction at the pilot sites starting in the first half of 2025.


European Innovation Council (EIC)