After 40 months, the BE-Rural project came to a close in its final conference in Frombork, Poland on July 11-14, 2022, under the title “Inspiring regional agendas for inclusive bioeconomies”. Around 40 project members and bioeconomy stakeholders travelled to Poland to review the activities and outputs of BE-Rural, discuss how the lessons learned can inform future initiatives and ongoing policy developments, and to outline concrete steps for future collaboration.

Through expert talks and dedicated working sessions, a key outcome of the conference was the co-development of the BE-Rural Policy Paper for the design and effective implementation of co-creation spaces in regional bioeconomies. Public and stakeholder engagement has a long history in European research and policy, and central to BE-Rural’s vision was the application of a variety of participatory tools. A comprehensive evaluation of the project’s engagement activities identified key lessons and helped to form the basis of the policy paper.

In addition to these final project outcomes, three policy briefs relevant for different governmental levels provide guidance on funding for bio-based business models, the ecological boundaries framing the bioeconomy in rural regions, and the relevance of bioeconomy for Pre-Accession Assistance projects in the Western Balkans.

While the bioeconomy carries great potential for achieving various policy aims related to sustainability, its suitability is not intrinsic and requires the capacity to assess its environmental impact. Over the course of the project, the need arose to develop a BE-Rural Sustainability Screening that supports decision-makers in incorporating considerations of ecological limits into their regional bioeconomy strategies and roadmaps.

Looking back, the BE-Rural project leaves behind a wealth of outputs and policy guidance on the development of regional bioeconomy strategies and roadmaps. While much has been accomplished, great potential remains to be tapped. In order to stay connected and keep facilitating knowledge exchange amongst the regions after the end of the project, BE-Rural launched a Network of Knowledge (Nok), an informal group open to all bioeconomy stakeholders interested in learning from others and exchanging on experiences in the design and implementation of bioeconomy strategies and bio-based business models, among others.

Over the course of the BE-Rural project, the bio-based pop-up store has helped bring the innovative potential of the bioeconomy to life for many local residents in the partner regions. With the launching of a virtual bio-based pop-up store, a bioeconomy market full of innovative products can now be explored by all.

From mineral water to roses, each region has different resource potentials. The virtual exhibition specifically highlights the innovation regions of Stara Zagora, Bulgaria and Covasna, Romania by showcasing a number of their regional products and providing a glimpse of the great bioeconomy potential and innovative use of resources and business models presented in their regional bioeconomy documents.

Dresses made from milk waste? Emissions free insect burgers? Spider silk nail polish? A brick grown by bacteria? Visitors can explore a vast array of innovative and sustainable products from around the world. On display are almost 60 products from more than 20 different countries all demonstrating just how far we have come in replacing unsustainable products and processes currently made from fossil resources with biological resources and innovative technologies.

The virtual exhibition further explores how biobased solutions can contribute to sustainable economic growth, innovation and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. For example, to encourage sustainable consumption (SDG 12), brands have developed many creative products on display such as vegan leather shoes and bags made from residual pineapple leaves or high-tech materials, such as break-resistant smartphone displays from sugar.

With quizzes and other interactive elements, visitors are encouraged to engage with the products, test their knowledge on the bioeconomy, and spark debates on issues of sustainability and achieving the SDGs.

Several public events are being organized in the regions of Stara Zagora, Bulgaria and Covasna, Romania to not only shed light on innovative bioeconomy products, inspire people to think of other potential regional resources and innovative business models, and initiate a more sustainable style of consumption, but also to mobilise engagement and collect feedback among citizens on the newly released bioeconomy strategies and roadmaps.

Start exploring the virtual bioeconomy marketplace here.

In the culmination of a two year co-creation process amongst key regional stakeholders, five regional bioeconomy strategy and roadmap documents have been finalized in the Open Innovation Platform (OIP) regions of Szczecin and Vistula Lagoons, Poland; Stara Zagora, Bulgaria; Strumica, North Macedonia; Vidzeme and Kurzeme, Latvia; and Covasna, Romania. The strategies and roadmaps were developed in the context of structured regional stakeholder processes and outline explicit actions that could support the further development of the regional bioeconomies.

In a celebration of the economic, ecological, and cultural diversity of European regions, the five documents present a broad range of strategies and tools for realising the potential of regional and local bio-based economies. Each document closely examines the regional context, the sectors relevant for the bioeconomy, as well as the existing national and regional institutional and policy environments.

In the Polish Baltic Lagoon regions, a strong focus is placed on social innovation in the fishery sector, whereas the utilisation of forest and agricultural biomass as well as waste and production residues take centre stage for bioeconomy development in the Vidzeme and Kurzeme regions of Latvia. The roadmap for the development of the bioeconomy in Strumica, North Macedonia focuses on the great potential of the agriculture sector and the need for advisory services for agricultural products, as well as training and education to aid the sector’s digital transition. Stara Zagora’s economy is dominated by a mix of small- and medium sized enterprises and, as such, one of the main priorities of the roadmap is creating conditions for the development of bio-based sectors and promoting the introduction of new technologies. In Romania, the development of the Roadmap for a Bioeconomy Strategy in Covasna County was strongly driven by innovation clusters and the need to harmonise rural development, social inclusion, and eco-innovation.

As a testament to one of the central aims of BE-Rural to enable broad and inclusive stakeholder participation in the roadmap and strategy development processes, the resulting documents demonstrate a strong mandate from various interest groups as well as clear relevance in the regional and national policy debates. Through the establishment of permanent bioeconomy stakeholder panels in each of the regions, BE-Rural will help maintain momentum and ensure broad support for the further development of the regional bioeconomies in the five OIP regions. The panels will consist of up to five members who will promote the bioeconomy within their regions and represent the regions and their interests to the national governments as ‘bioeconomy ambassadors’.

Summaries of strategy and roadmap documents are provided in the deliverable D5.3 and the individual documents can be accessed in their local languages here.

A critical component of BE-Rural is to accompany the elaboration process of bio-based strategies and roadmaps and relevant business models through the sharing of knowledge, good practices and mutual learning across the Open Innovation Platforms (OIPs). To this end, three inter-regional webinars were organised on 18 March 2020, 16 June 2020, and on 16 February 2021. Each of the three webinars were held as half-day events and successfully brought together between thirty and forty participants, mainly representing the five OIP regions.

The first webinar focused on improving the general understanding of the current regional situations with regard to their political contexts and main priorities for the development of local bioeconomy strategies. OIP facilitators and their stakeholders had the chance to provide details on their sector of activity, describe the status of the bioeconomy development in their region and discuss common points of interest, such as the need for more cross-sector collaboration, the lack of financing, and the utilization of abandoned private land in rural areas.

A second webinar further deepened the exchange of best practices between regions by examining experiences in the promotion of local food systems, funding opportunities, and the role of bioeconomy in the implementation of smart specialisation strategies. A key outcome highlighted throughout the webinar was the high replicability across regions of these three aspects. In addition, it was noted that the mobilisation of regional actors, accompanied by a sustained effort to educate society from an early age, was the key factor for success.

The third webinar was dedicated to best practices on strategy development and business models in each OIP region. Each region shared one or two best practices focused both on local/regional strategies and business models. A number of successful small-scale examples or initiatives helped complete the economic picture in each region.

The outcomes of these interactions have helped collect best practices and critical knowledge on the role of these activities in designing and implementing effective strategies. These learnings will be published in a “Best practice guide for strategy development” and will ultimately feed back into BE-Rural’s regional strategy and roadmap development processes.

Photo: Educational workshop, 09.03.20, University of Strathclyde (UK)

Increasing awareness and understanding of bioeconomy, sustainability and circular economy through education is one of the main objectives of BE-Rural. In this perspective, the project partner, University of Strathclyde, UK, developed, evaluated and tested a series of educational materials that can be used by teachers. The material is available only in English at the moment, but will also be translated into the languages of the five Open Innovation Platform regions: Bulgarian, Romanian, Latvian, Polish and Macedonian. This report includes Powerpoint slides for use by teachers, workshops, quizzes, games, extracurricular activities, and a review of 100 free educational resources that are already accessible online free-of-charge. In the context of the current Coronavirus pandemic, the report also touches upon the online delivery of educational materials, which are available for download hereunder.

Raising awareness of the value of bioeconomy and how it relates to sustainability is fundamental in contributing to the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals. As the EU is taking actions towards a sustainable bioeconomy, notably with its strategy aiming at promoting the bioeconomy within ecological limits, the sustainability implications of the bioeconomy is an aspect commonly shared across all the learning materials.

Power Point slides for teacher presentations with notes:

Introduction to the bioeconomy

Bioeconomy and key principles of sustainability

Bioeconomy and SDGs (and respective targets)

Bioeconomy and the Circular Economy

Bioecomomy in the agriculture sector

Bioecomomy in the forestry sector

Bioecomomy in the fisheries sector

Bioecomomy in the sector of essential oils and herbs for cosmetics/pharmaceuticals

Workshops, quizzes and games:

Mentimeter ideas

Workshop and Card Game “Business Match”

Game “Sustainability and SDGs Heatwave”

One set of cards and two games: “BE-Match” & “SDG-Link”

Bioeconomy Word Search Puzzles

As events are being reshaped in digital formats worldwide given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, BE-Rural partners also adapt their communication by going online. Lately, Dr Elsa Joāo, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, and partner on the BE-Rural project, responsible for the creation of education materials for schools, colleges and universities, among others, did a Zoom talk on “Key principles of the circular economy and how it relates to the bioeconomy”, at an online conference “Bioeconomy: for a sustainable future” organised by the Biochemistry Students´ Association of Coimbra Academic Association (NEBIOQ/AAC), in partnership with Académica Start UC, a programme of  awareness-raising and education for innovation and entrepreneurship carried out by the University of Coimbra (UC) and the Coimbra Academic Association (AAC), Portugal.

Please contact us, if you would wish to receive more information on her talk.

Regional Stakeholder Event_06.09.19_Covasna (RO)

Photo: Regional Stakeholder Seminar, 17.12.19, Covasna (RO)

Regional partners from the five Open Innovations Platforms (OIPs) started their stakeholder engagement processes by organising meetings and workshops with specific target groups from their communities. These include, among others, policy-makers, academics, civil society representatives, investors, financial institutions, companies, and other players from across the local bio-based value chains. The series of activities that are currently happening in the OIP regions mainly aim at exchanging knowledge on the theme of a regional bioeconomy strategy, identifying areas for capacity-building among stakeholders, supporting the enhancement of their capacities and encouraging their active participation in maintaining stakeholder working groups set up to develop strategy or roadmap documents for strengthened regional bioeconomies.

End of last year, a number of stakeholder meetings already took place in Covasna, Romania. Several clusters representing different sectors, from forestry to textile and fashion, attended the meetings and were provided, inter alia, with insights into how to move towards a bioeconomic development model in the region of Covasna.

Stakeholder Working Group Meeting_23.01.20_Strumica (MK)

The other four pilot regions got 2020 off to a flying start with similar events and workshops organised in January and February. In spite of the current COVID-19 pandemic, partners from the five focal regions will continue to be very active in engaging with their stakeholders and mobilising synergies between them to boost collaboration for the advancement of local bio-based economies. You can make sure to hear more from the innovation regions in the future while discussions and consultations with regional stakeholders are progressing.

Keep on visiting the BE-Rural website as event reports with more information are being regularly uploaded in English.

Photo Credits: T.A.Štāls LSFRI Silava

Pop-up stores are shops, cafés or events that appear in fascinating environments and stay for a limited time period. At the centre stage are not only consumption aspects, but also the innovation potential. These spaces provide the room to try something new and get inspired. The first BE-Rural bio-based pop-up store has now opened its doors in Cēsis, in the innovation region Vidzeme in Latvia.

The pop-up store is part of the Vidzeme Innovation Week, a five-day event with the aim to encourage existing and future employees, entrepreneurs and managers to see the potential of innovation in their everyday work. During the opening hours, primarily school classes from the Vidzeme region visit the pop-up store. They are guided by experts from the SILAVA research institute that introduce the advantages and potential of a bio-based economy.

Food made from insects, leather made from bacteria, clothes made from milk – about 50 bio-based product innovations are presented in the pop-up store, with a special focus on the bioeconomic potential of Latvia. Spruces and pines are a valuable resource from Latvian forests. Besides their value for timber production, their needles and cones can be turned into bio-based products. The pop-up store showcases pinecones that can be used as a substitute for barbeque charcoal or turned into delicious sweets. The needles of spruces serve as basis for natural insecticides or nutritional supplements that have health enhancing powers.

Within the pop-up store, a narrative is developed that shows how bioeconomic innovations are able to contribute to the achievement of selected UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The products are presented in the context of SDG 2 with the aim to end hunger, SDG 9 that deals with industry, innovation and infrastructure, SDG 12 that focuses on sustainable consumption and SDG 15 that has been created to protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems.

To get a taste of the future, visitors of the Vidzeme Innovation Conference have the chance to „eat the bioeconomy“. Insect snacks, algae pasta and drinks made from hemp and algae as well as gluten free beer are served to the attendees of the meeting. More information about the Vidzeme Innovation Week and the Vidzeme Innovation Conference “Responsible Innovation” can be found here.

Visit our bio-based pop-up store in Latvia!

Lielā Skolas iela 6, Cēsis, Latvia

24.02.2020 – 28.02.2020

Click below to check the Brochure used at the Bio-based pop up store:

Available in English

Available in Latvian