Through its 2012 Bioeconomy Strategy, Europe has made important headway towards becoming a more innovative, resource efficient society. The strategy promotes substitution of fossil based products, addresses sustainable supply of bioresources and food security in view of climate change and global population increase. However, it is now time to step up a gear.
That is the main message of the review of the Bioeconomy strategy, presented by the European Commission at the today´s high-level Bioeconomy policy day. The review paves the way for a revision of the strategy, expected next year.
Carlos Moedas, Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, said: “Faced with the current challenges of food security, climate change and industrial transformation, we have the responsibility to figure out how to best deal with the biological resources we have and how to put them to the best use. In the past five years, the EU has made major progress in this respect. We have taken stock of this progress to make sure that we focus our efforts in the right direction in this diverse and fast-changing part of the economy.”
The review shows that the EU has successfully mobilised research and innovation funding in this area. Dedicated EU funding for the bioeconomy has more than doubled; from €1.9 billion in the seventh Framework programme (2007-13) to €4.52 billion in its successor, Horizon2020 (2014-20).
The Commission’s public-private partnership with industry – the Bio-Based Industries Joint Undertaking – is a major step for leveraging private investment. It provides successful examples of how bioeconomy can help local economies by converting old industrial sites and through the creation of skilled ‘green’ jobs. For example, the First2Run biorefinery, funded through EU’s partnership with the bio-based industry, shows that it is possible to replace fossil-based products with those made from low input crops or agricultural and forestry waste.
Numerous projects and analytical work show how Europe can radically change its approach to production, consumption, processing and disposal of biological resources. The PROTEIN2FOOD project develops innovative prototypes of high value protein-enriched food, which will improve food security and human health. And the Commission’s Science Advice Mechanism (SAM) is finalising a paper on how to obtain more food from the ocean in a sustainable way, which will inform important upcoming initiatives.
In addition, the review concludes that EU Member States and regions increasingly benefit from the opportunities that the bioeconomy offers. On the other hand, it also recognises that further mobilisation of investments and a stable regulatory environment are still needed to scale up and roll out existing and new technologies and demonstrators. Also, it calls for better policy coherence and improved monitoring and assessment of progress.
Furthermore to the review, the members of the EU Bioeconomy Stakeholders Panel will present a Manifesto that lays out a societal agenda for the bioeconomy.
The Bioeconomy encompasses the production of renewable biological resources and the conversion of these resources and waste streams into value-added products, such as food, feed, bio-based products and bio-energy. The challenge is to pave the way to a more innovative, resource efficient and competitive society that reconciles food security with the sustainable use of renewable resources for industrial purposes, while ensuring environmental protection.
It is one of the Union’s largest and most important sectors encompassing agriculture, forestry, fisheries, food, bio-energy and bio-based products with an annual turnover of around 2 trillion euro and employing around 18 million people. It is also key policy for boosting growth in rural and coastal areas.
Source: EC Research & Innovation