Nymphe is a four years European project dedicated to tackling environmental pollution by developing innovative bioremediation solutions.
The ambition is to remove multiple pollutants (such as microplastics and pesticides in the agricultural soil, and chlorinated solvents and petroleum hydrocarbon in groundwater and sediments in the industrial area) from different contaminated sites in Europe. Nymphe’s actions will improve the ecological quality and health of soils and waters. Our nature-based, low-energy and low-chemical solutions to eliminate pollutants will contribute to the expected outcomes of the EU Zero Pollution Action Plan.
Horizon Europe Program for 2021-2027
Type of action:
Environmental services – improved bioremediation and revitalization strategies for soil, sediments and water for a clean environment and zero pollution
Research and Innovation
Grant Agreement ID:
Coordinated by the University of Bologna
1 January 2023
5.7 milion €
18 partners from 12 countries
The Nymphe Story
In Greek mythology, nymphs were spirits linked to springs, mountains, and forests: personifications of nature's vital forces and the balance of ecosystems. In biology, we speak of nymphs to describe insects in an immature stage before they transform into fully functional adults through metamorphosis.
Nymphe project (New system-driven bioremediation of polluted habitats and environment) combines both meanings. It aims to develop biotechnological approaches that push natural ecosystems to transform and revitalize themselves, becoming capable of repairing the damage inflicted by human activity. Nymphe will contribute to the expected results of the European Union's Zero Pollution Action Plan staying in line with the European Green Deal.
Bioremediation is a more sustainable alternative to standard remediation options like burying polluted soils in landfills or chemical remediation that increases the health risk for workers. Unlike these conventional physicochemical remediation processes, which can be disruptive, bioremediation is less intrusive and can facilitate the remediation of environmental impacts without damaging delicate ecosystems.
What are our goals?
To develop bioremediation systems consisting of multiple enzymes, micro- and macroorganisms.
To assess the strategies from technical, environmental, economic, and societal perspectives for the revitalization of polluted environments.
To introduce them at four pilot sites
The pilot sites
To prove the bioremediation efficiency, Nymphe will reimplement the assembled systems of biologics in four deeply contaminated sites and one site used as facility enabling tests with bioengineered biologics under confined conditions.
The pollutants that will be removed from the contaminated matrices are characteristic of each matrix, e.g., agricultural soil contaminated with microplastics and pesticides.
In addition, areas surrounding the sites (water resources, woodlands, agricultural activities) have been documented to frame the methodology for the ecological assessment in the standards of Natura 2000.
Industrial site - Ferrara Province, Italy
Contamination: Soil, GW, and aquifer sediments of the site are contaminated with Petroleum Hydrocarbons (PHC), chlorinated aliphatic hydrocarbons (CAH) and heavy metals (HM).
The site is a chemical multi-company Eni Rewind S.
p. A. The company will carry out in-depth sampling, shipping samples to partners, and supervising site tests.
Hyporheic zone (HZ) - Erpe river, Hoppegarten, Germany
The site in the river Erpe is composed of 60-80% of treated wastewater discharged by the municipal Wastewater Treatment Plant Münchehofe.
Contamination: More than 100 organic pollutants (pharmaceuticals+metabolites) are routinely detected in surface water and hyporheic zone (HZ) sediments, including guanyl urea and ibuprofen. IGB will support sampling, analyses, and ex-situ and in-situ experiments in the HZ.
Agricultural field - Falassarna, Western Crete, Greece
Contamination: This area was historically used to produce tomatoes and cucumbers, but now the soil is contaminated with microplastics, pesticides, and microbial-based pesticides used for organic farming.
CHQ will work with regional cooperatives of tomato producers to identify the areas (next to an operating greenhouse) for the ex-situ bioremediation of microplastics and pesticides. Samples will also be collected, analysed for microplastics and pesticides, and distributed to partners.
Facility for "confined use" of bioengineered biologics - Leopoldov, Slovak Republic
The design of reactors for confined application of bioengineered biologics will be set according to instructions of the Slovakian Ministry of the Environment.
The transport of the matrices between Nymphe sites and the partner's working places will be carried out following the ADR, AND, RIS, and IATA DGR regulations.
Municipal WW - Alcalá, Spain
The site locates at IMDEA Water Institute, founded by the Madrid Regional Government in 2005 within the University of Alcalá campus.
Contamination: The facilities receive untreated wastewater from the campus contaminated with municipal typical pollutants, pharmaceuticals (antibiotics) and microplastics (MPs) - polyethylene terephthalate, bis(2-hydroxyethyl) and mono(2- hydroxyethyl) terephthalates, polylactic acid, polyurethane, polycaprolactone, polypropylene, polyamide, and polyethylene).
The IMDEA facilities also provide all the analytical equipment for analysing and monitoring pollutants in wastewater. METFI will supply Nymphe partners with samples and analyses of wastewater and supervise/facilitate field tests.
Meet The Team
Nymphe brings together 17 partner organizations from the EU (Italy, Spain, Germany, The Netherlands, Czech Republic, Denmark, Slovakia, Portugal, Poland, Romania, and Belgium) and a third part from Switzerland as an associated partner.
The consortium was established on the basis of an interdisciplinary approach, the consortium consists of 9 Universities and Research institutions, 6 small/medium entreprises, 1 large company, 2 NGOs. The interdisciplinary approach covers the entire value chain of bioremediation for market uptake:
environmental microbiology/biotechnology, analytics, ecotoxicology, bioinformatics, supramolecular engineering, additive manufacturing, environmental engineering, biological safety, and biotech legislation, companies in bioremediation, socio-economy.
The strategical development of bioremediation is made with and for economic actors of the sector:
bioremediation (CENV , METFI, and CHQ Technologies),
microbiome modeling & manipulation (BLOM),
ecotoxicological testing (ABI),
regulatory & biosafety (Perseus)
as well as a large end-user (ER).
ER, CHQ, IGB, METFI, and CENV have access and authorization to test bioremediation strategies at contaminated sites.
University of Bologna (UNIBO), Italy
UNIBO is the oldest university in the Western world. UNIBO has coordinated several initiatives on bioremediation and microbiome on the EU and national levels. The University brings to the project years of experience in bioremediation focused on petroleum hydrocarbons and chlorinated aliphatic hydrocarbons in terrestrial and aquatic environments. In Nymphe, UNIBO will focus on industrial pollution of the soil and the underlying aquifer and on microbiome characterization in bioremediation systems. Team in Nymphe: Giulio Zanaroli, Elena Biagi, Fabio Fava, Davide Pinelli, Dario Frascari, Alessandra Bonoli, Andrea Negroni, Alberto Botti, and Eliana Musmeci Marco Candela and Simone Rampelli Professor Zanaroli coordinates the Nymphe project. 1Department of Civil, Chemical, Environmental and Materials Engineering 2Department of Pharmacy and Biotechnology
School of Life Sciences (FHNW), Switzerland
The FHNW School of Life Sciences is part of Europe’s largest life sciences center. It lies at the heart of pharmaceutical and medical technology, the chemical industry, environmental science, and biotechnology. FHNW is an associated partner of UNIBO. FHNW coordinates Electra and collaborates with other Biotec projects. FHNW links strongly connected to the European Federation of Biotechnology (EFB) – Europe’s most extensive network of environmental biotechnology experts. FHNW brings three unique technological contributions: generating degrading antibiotic variants in MBR, supramolecularly engineered enzymes, and 3D-bioprinting. Team in Nymphe: Philippe Corvini – Vice-President of EFB, Patrick Shahgaldian, Marcel Suleiman, Ana Dujmovic, Francesca Demaria.
Blossom Microbial Technologies (BLOM), the Netherlands
BLOM is a spin-off of Utrecht University, consisting of passionate plant scientists, microbiologists, and horticulture specialists dedicated to improving plant production. The team has developed proprietary bioinformatic tools to decipher interactions within the microbiome and predict the sustainability of bioaugmentation, which will be used in the Nymphe for developing microbiome management strategies (improvement strategies at system level). The BLOM team in Nymphe: Silvia Cretoiu, Alexandre Jousset, Mona Jahani and Mohammad Ravanbakhsh.
The University of Chemistry and Technology, Prague (UCTP), Czech Republic
UCTP is the largest educational institution of technical chemistry in Central Europe. It is an expert in genomically improved plants for phytoremediation. UCTP will oversee the performance improvement of natural and genomically edited plants and microorganisms for soil phytoremediation. The Nymphe team: Faculty of Food and Biochemical Technology: 1Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology – Laboratory of Microbial Ecology 2Department of Water Technology and Environmental Engineering – Laboratory of Food Microbiology Ondrej Uhlik and Tomas Macek. Katerina Demnerova
Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB), Germany
IGB is Germany’s most prominent and one of the leading international research centers for freshwater. It analyzes the processes that shape the structure and functioning of water bodies and their biota and develops measures conducive to sustainable water management. IGB coordinated HypoTRAIN (Hyporheic Zone Processes – A training network for enhancing the understanding of complex physical, chemical, and biological process interactions), which has acquired a large set of data. In Nymphe, IGB will manage and supervise the testing of biologics-based systems in the hyporheic zone test site on River Erpe, Hoppegarten, Germany. Team in Nymphe: Jörg Lewandowski. Jörg Lewandowski and Stephanie Spahr. Department Ecohydrology and Biogeochemistry and Humboldt University Berlin, Geography Department
Ademed - Association for Development and Environment (ADE), Romania
ADE is a non-profit organization providing social, educational, and environmental expertise, mainly in rural areas and towns, and has managed several Natura 2000 projects. In Nymphe, ADE will oversee the ecological and environmental assessments. Team in Nymphe: Gabriela Staicu, Florin Alexandru, Nicolae Galdean.
Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz University Hannover (LUH), Germany
LUH is a leading technical university in Germany. LUH was in charge of analysing the microbiome concerning pollutant biodegradation performances in the hyporheic zone (Innovative Training Network HypoTRAIN). In Nymphe, LUH will build on this experience to decipher the functionality of pharmaceutical degraders within the microbiome of the hyporheic zone. They will also suggest biologics and target actions for the remediation of the hyporheic zone and use worms as microplastics degradation facilitators in soil. LUH team in Nymphe: Marcus A. Horn, Linda Hink, Natalie Röder. Institute of Microbiology
CHQ Technologies (CHQ), Greece
CHQ is a spin-off of the Technical University of Crete (TU-Crete), a plastic/microplastic research pioneer. The scope of their work concerns microbial colonization/degradation processes and the implementation of phytoremediation. CHQ focuses on the bioremediation of polluted marine and terrestrial environments, primarily due to hydrocarbons and plastics, in a circular perspective. In Nymphe, CHQ will exploit microbial consortia and isolates and tune their activity in eco-biopiles and composting reactors treating agricultural soils contaminated with microplastics and pesticides. CHQ will also manage the site in Falassarna, Crete, Greece. Team in Nymphe: The key scientists are Nicolas Kalogerakis, Evdokia Syranidou, and Eleftheria Antoniou coming from the Biochemical Engineering and Environmental Biotechnology Laboratory of the School of Environmental Engineering at TU-Crete.
University of Milan (UMIL), Italy
UMIL is the expert on plant-microbe interactions concerning chemical pollution and builds on this know-how to fully exploit the remediation capacities of plant-bacteria holobiont systems for soil remediation. UMIL is responsible for providing the final set of characterized plant growth-promoting bacteria, pollutant-degrading bacteria, and biostimulant plant-derived compounds. They also will ensure the efficacy of these biologics in petroleum hydrocarbons removal. Team in Nymphe: Sara Borin, Francesca Mapelli, Eleonora Rolli, Elena Crotti. Department of Food, Environmental and Nutritional Sciences.
Metfilter S.L. (METFI), Spain
METFI is a technological company established by the IMDEA Water public research institute in Spain and the Center of New Water Technologies Foundation. It aims to develop water purification systems based on microbial electrogenesis and solutions for municipal and industrial wastewater treatments. Building on the experience with the Electra project, METFI will: ●investigate the microbiome in the Metlands systems, ●optimize its bioremediation action by finetuning operation, ●test the assembly of new systems of biologics within the Metlands, ●and will manage tests at Wastewater Treatment Plant. METTI manages the site in Alcalá, Spain. Installations on the METFI site allow genomically edited biologics to be introduced. Nymphe contributor: Abraham Esteve Núñez.
Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), Spain
CSIC is a worldwide expert in synthetic biology and systems biotechnology. In Nymphe, they will develop new pollution-degrading enzymes and use synthetic biology to design new microorganisms with improved abilities to reduce pollution. Team in Nymphe: 1 Víctor de Lorenzo’s lab (National Biotechnology Center) is an environmental synthetic biology laboratory that aims to produce biological agents for biosensing, remediation, and valorising chemical waste in the environment. To this end, the lab uses the soil bacterium Pseudomonas putida, particularly the strain called KT2440, having proven expertise on its outstanding physiological strength and stress-tolerance properties. The team works on repurposing these features with a biotechnological aim with the tools of contemporary Synthetic Biology. 2Manuel Ferrer’s lab (Institute of Catalysis and Petrochemistry, Department of Applied Biocatalysis) Manuel’s lab is a systems biotechnology group that deals with multi- and inter-disciplinarity to the service of enzymes: a chemical vision to biological questions for implementing biocatalysts in everyday life.
ABITEC, s.r.o. (ABI), Czech Republic
ABI is an SME specialising in bioremediation and has developed know-how on appropriate ecotoxicological bioassays to monitor bioremediation efficiency. In addition, ABI has developed bio-enzymatic technologies that deliver cost-effective solutions in wastewater treatment, waste air treatment, or industrial and municipal waste recycling. Their bioremediation technology focuses mainly on organic pollutants. ABI will assess the quality ecotoxicity and overall quality of samples matrices before and after treatment remediation through a self-developed innovative integrated evaluation tool. ABI team in Nymphe: Simona Vosáhlová, Vít Matějů, Sandra Myškovská, Hana Tvrdíková, Ivana Pichlerová, Eva Vaňková, Iveta Jírovcová and Robin Kyclt as team leader.
Eni Rewind S. p. A. (ER), Italy
ER is Eni's environmental branch, one of Europe's major oil companies, and owns several polluted sites. ER will manage the industrial site Ferrara site in Italy, supervise bioremediation in situ pilot tests, and contribute to blueprint roadmaps for restoration at the contaminated areas. The involvement of ER is crucial in terms of the replication of bioremediation actions. ER’s team in Nymphe: Ciacciarelli Rachele, Fiora Bagnato, Federico Villani, Alfonso Modica, Federico Santoro.
Perseus (PERSE), Belgium
PERSE is a company that provides services for biosafety and biotechnology legislation. PERSE will provide regulatory support related to genomically edited biologics usage for the METFI site in Spain and the CENV site in Slovakia. It will also communicate genomically edited biologics to the different groups of stakeholders. Team in Nymphe: Patrick De Boever, Greet Smets, Patrick Rüdelsheim.
The University of Aveiro (UAVR), Portugal
UAVR is one of the few groups in Europe exploiting bivalves for wastewater treatment. UAVR will test the removal of organic pollutants and metals by clams in wastewater, valorise the shell as a sorbent to remove metals in wastewater and recycle them for the growth of phytoremediation plants. Team in Nymphe: 1Joana Luísa Pereira, Fernando Gonçalves. 2 Sónia Ventura, Helena Passos, João Coutinho. 1Centre for Environmental and Marine Studies and Department of Biology (CESAM) 2Aveiro Institute of Materials (CiCEC)
University of Girona (UdG), Spain
UdG is a European expert in bioelectrochemical pilot systems. They will develop tubular BES systems to target microplastics and micropollutants. The objective of UdG is to steer the bioremediation process regarding removal rates, treated daily flow, and efficiencies. Team in Nymphe: Lluis Bañeras, Sebastià Puig. Molecular Microbial Ecology Group, Institute of Aquatic Ecology and Lequia, Institute of the Environment
Institute of Innovation and Responsible Development (INNO), Poland
INNO is an NGO operating in the field of innovation development support and the implementation of system changes for sustainable socio-economic development. In Nymphe, INNO will be responsible for communication, dissemination, and exploitation of results and will provide socio-economic expertise, e.g., on the analysis of costs and economic impact of innovations and systemic changes, economic and social effects of implemented regulations, legislative solutions, and behavior of market entities and the sociology of consumption. Team in Nymphe: Agnieszka Sznyk, Hubert Bukowski, Urszula Makowiecka.
Centre of Environmental Services, Ltd. (CENV), Slovakia
CENV is an SME in bioremediation that owns a site for outdoor mesocosms test for reimplantation of systems of genomically edited biologics. CENV will supervise tests in the Leopoldov, Slovakia site used for the confined testing of genomically edited biologics to remediate the contaminated matrices of the industrial, agricultural, and hyporheic zone sites in compliance with national and environmental regulations and performance requirements. CENV’s team in Nymphe: Hana Horváthová, Roman Tóth, Pavol Takáč, Tibor Ťapuš, Vladimír Malý, Juraj Macek.