Commission presents strategy to boost bioeconomy
By Tamás Kugyela | Monday 13 February 2012
In an attempt to counter an estimated 70% increase in food demand and the doubling in energy demand in the EU by 2050, the European Commission put forward, on 13 February, a plan to boost the Union’s ‘bioeconomy’. The proposal, entitled ‘Innovating for sustainable growth: A bioeconomy for Europe’, outlines a strategy to shift the European economy towards a more sustainable use of renewable resources.
Research Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn called the bioeconomy one of the Union’s biggest and most important sectors. “Industry will not wait forever for Europe to take action. We have been too slow and too piecemeal in converting research into industry results. We need a stronger framework that brings together stakeholders and policy makers,” she commented, emphasising that the plan does not constitute a new piece of legislation.
International competition in the field promises to be fierce. The United States is also in the process of developing its ‘National bioeconomy blueprint’, which follows the same lines as the Commission’s present proposal: increasing investment in R&D, opening new markets and fostering public-private partnerships to accelerate innovation.
Under the present framework programme (FP7, 2007-2013), €1.5 billion from a total €1.9 billion have already been allocated to related research (eg biotechnology, nanotechnology, ICT, promotion of emerging technologies). This figure is expected to rise to €4.5 billion in the Horizon 2020 programme.
A full-fledged bioeconomy market may generate an added value of about €45 billion and 130,000 jobs by 2025. Too meet this figure, the Commission proposes to develop standards for bio-based products, with a provision of specific labels, to support demonstration and scale-up activities, to set up an initial European product information list and to provide training for public procurers.
To forge stronger policy coordination, it suggests the creation of a ‘bioeconomy panel’ involving the Commission, member states and stakeholders. A ‘bioeconomy observatory’ would be responsible for the assessment of progress and impact of the changes.
Industry representatives welcomed the proposal. Lars Christian Hansen of bioinnovation firm Novozymes’ reacted: “For the first time, the European Commission has a coherent approach for this complex economic and scientific arena and it is supported by several relevant departments of the Commission (including agriculture, environment and industry). This sends a strong signal that bioeconomy has become a European priority”.
EuropaBio, the European association for bioindustries, while overall positive, noted that “overcoming the hurdles associated with the deployment of new technologies and bridging the so-called innovation Valley of Death between research and market remains a critical challenge in Europe”.
The text is available at
www.europolitics.info > Search = 308754
‘Bioeconomy’ means an economy using biological resources from the land and sea, as well as waste, as inputs to food and feed, industrial and energy production. It includes agriculture, forestry, fisheries, food and pulp and paper production, as well as parts of chemical, biotechnological and energy industries. Estimates show that these sectors already have a turnover of two trillion euro and employ more than 22 million people, 9% of total EU employment (see table).