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.
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.
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:
The German government has adopted a new national bioeconomy strategy. In Berlin, two Federal Ministers presented the goals on the way to a bio-based, sustainable economy.
Expanding the bio-based economy
The new German national bioeconomy strategy sets the framework for the sustainable development and use of biological resources and environmentally and nature-friendly production processes in all economic sectors. With the overall strategy, the Federal Government is bundling the activities of all federal ministries on the bioeconomy to date and setting the course for further development.
Federal Research Minister Anja Karliczek and Federal Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner presented the new bio-economy strategy at a press conference in Berlin. “Not least because of climate change we have to rethink. We have to do everything we can to preserve our livelihoods while remaining economically strong. The bioeconomy is key to reaching this goal”, said Karliczek. The new strategy therefore aims to make even greater use of biological knowledge, resources, processes and systems in all economic sectors.
Around 3.6 billion euros for a sustainable bioeconomy
According to the ministers, the German government will invest up to 3.6 billion euros over the next five years to implement the bioeconomic strategy. The clear focus of the strategy is on sustainability, said Minister Karliczek. “We will specifically promote innovations that take into account the climate, the environment and the stress limits of our ecosystems. A sustainable economy not only helps us to achieve our global sustainability goals, but also secures us a leading position in the markets of the future in the long term.” Federal Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner: “The bioeconomy is promising especially for agriculture and forestry. As central producers of raw materials, our farmers are the supporting pillars of the strategy. While we have to import many fossil resources, the renewable ones are growing around the corner. On our fields and in the forests,” emphasized Klöckner. “Tires made of dandelions, car doors made of hemp fibers or rubber boots made of corn. These are just a few examples that illustrate the potential and practical relevance of research.” Klöckner had brought a particularly light bicycle helmet made of a wood-based material to the press conference.
Science Year 2020: Bioeconomy in the spotlight
In order to strengthen the development of a sustainable bioeconomy also internationally, close links with industry and cross-border cooperation are to be expanded. For the bioeconomy to be effective, however, it must above all meet societal demands and needs. It is therefore important to conduct an open discussion and to involve all social groups. This is why bioeconomy is the topic of the German Science Year 2020. (You can find more information on the German Science Year Bioeconomy here).
An in-depth bioeconomy potential analysis is the basis for any bioeconomy strategy or roadmap. This analysis is needed to understand the current situation and define barriers and opportunities. The bioeconomy potential of the BE-Rural Open Innovation regions was analyzed with the Self-Assessment Tool (SAT) launched by the European Commission. The SAT is based on eight Key Factors: Long term, stability and availability of feedstock; infrastructure to handle feedstocks and production; access to finance; skilled workforce, technical expertise and training; existence of support institutions; strength and availability of regional markets; entrepreneurship; and Public support policies. The following text provides a brief overview of the results. The complete report can be downloaded here.
- Stara Zagora in Bulgaria there is enough feedstock from forest, agricultural residues and waste sufficient for small-scale bio-based industries and bioenergy installations, but what can hinder the development of the bioeconomy is mostly the difficult access to finance and the lack of public support. However, the strong chemical manufacturing sector can bring significant potential if new business models for the production of bio-based chemicals are adapted.
- Szczecin and Vistula Lagoon in Poland, the analysis covered only the fishery sector. Two scenarios can be envisaged for the development of the bioeconomy in this sector. The first is based on developing a marketing strategy to allow the reuse of the by-catch fish as an edible product as part of promoting sustainable food systems and the second scenario considers the use of the by-catch together with the fish waste coming from fish processing to produce bio-based products. There is no public support available in the areas of research, finance or entrepreneurship, but the presence of Fishery Local Action Groups and fish clusters can compensate to a certain extent for the absence of public support. Stakeholders need to work together to attract investors and start-ups.
- In Strumica, North Macedonia, there are enough resources for small-scale applications to be used for the bioeconomy, but there are many obstacles that might hinder the development of the bioeconomy, especially the lack of skilled people, education and trainings in the field of bioeconomy and the lack of public support institutions. Substantial awareness raising and direct dissemination activities about the opportunities that the bioeconomy can bring are crucial for its development.
- As for the Covasna region in Romania, it already uses forest biomass for pellet and wood chips production, but there are still unused feedstocks that can be available for other small-scale bio-based industries. The factors that might hinder the development of the bioeconomy is the lack of skilled personnel for the implementation of bio-based industries, because of lack of vocational training and the lack of public support and entrepreneurship.
- The situation in Vidzeme and Kurzeme in Latvia is promising for the development of the bioeconomy, as feedstocks are significantly available for small-scale bio-based industry or bioenergy installations. Financing is also available and is supported by private and public bodies. A qualified workforce to implement and manage bio-based industries is present. Furthermore, the region can profit widely from the existing supporting institutions. The barriers, which could hinder the development of the bio-based industry are the lack of a stable biomass resources market which can deliver in a constant manner and on the long-term, the possible lack of entrepreneurship.
A new BE-Rural report presents an overview of good practice small-scale technology options to help realize and valorise the potential of regional and local bio-based economies. The described options were identified in close cooperation with the five BE-Rural OIP regions and match their region-specific potentials and feedstock.
A final set of 16 factsheets
In a selection procedure, the pool of different technologies and good practices was reduced to 16. The selected examples demonstrate the wide spectrum of technology options, which have already proven their market maturity or potential. The factsheets include general background information, technological and economic descriptions, the motivation behind the technology, as well as an outline of the environmental and socioeconomic impacts. In addition, the advantages and disadvantages of small-scale technology options compared to larger and more complex systems, such as large-scale biorefineries, are discussed.
One example: A sustainable microfibrilated cellulose material
Providing a starting point
The technology options that have been summarised and analysed in this report show the wide range of technology options that are available for the development of regional bioeconomies. The diversity of the considered feedstocks and products hints at the huge potential small-scale technology options have when it comes to facilitating the transition to a regional bioeconomy. This overview can provide a starting point for further investigation in feedstocks, technologies and the involvement of further relevant actors.
You can download the entire report with all 16 factsheets here.
Around 4.000 participants joined the 2019 European Research and Innovation Days organised by the European Commission in Brussels. This large-scale event took place from 24. – 26. September with the purpose to shape and contribute to future research and innovation policy. Holger Gerdes, Senior Fellow at Ecologic Institute and project coordinator of BE-Rural, contributed to a panel discussion on the challenges and potentials of bio-based products.
Preparing Horizon Europe
The European Research & Innovation Days brought together researchers, scientists, innovators, policy-makers and featured three main elements: a high-level Policy Conference, the Innovative Europe Hub and the ‘Science is Wonderful’ exhibition of EU-funded projects. The event was part of the strategic planning process that sets the foundations for the first work programmes of Horizon Europe, the upcoming research and innovation framework programme of the EU for the period 2021 – 2028. Carlos Moedas, European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, opened the event stating that “science and innovation in Europe is moving into a new era, with new leadership and new challenges.” Several parallel sessions followed the opening keynotes – among them talks about the innovation principle and sustainability, bioeconomy and plastics.
Bio-based economy – innovations in practice
The session “Bio-based economy – innovations in practice”, attracted around 65 bioeconomy stakeholders who discussed the main challenges and potentials of bio-based products and innovations. Holger Gerdes contributed to the session on potential implications of bioeconomy policies in the context of the EU’s Cohesion Policy, and on current limitations when assessing the environmental performance of bio-based products. “SME face difficulties when it comes to finding partners along new and adapted value chains”, commented the BE-Rural project leader, while “in regions where the bioeconomy is now picking up speed, public agencies are in place and take the role as a match-maker or facilitator”. This is positive for the regions where such agencies are in place, but has a negative impact on those that don’t as the gap between these regions increases – something that the EU Cohesion Policy tries to avoid. With regard to the environmental performance of bio-based products, Holger Gerdes highlighted that there is still a “lack of evidence” to base decisions on with regard to environmental superiority. According to Gerdes, this evidence creation could be part of the upcoming Horizon Europe programme. The video recordings from the session can be watched online.
Session Speakers & Panelists:
- Ignacio Martin, CIRCE Foundation
- Holger Gerdes, Ecologic Institute
- Malene Sand Jespersen, COWI
- Riccardo Schiatti, Energochemica
- Barna Kovács, BIOEAST Initiative, Permanent Representation of Hungary to the EU
The INSECTA conference continues to grow. More than 270 participants from 40 different countries met on 5 and 6 September in Potsdam to talk about meal- and buffaloworms, crickets, locusts and conspecifics. The experts from science and industry meet annually to discuss the latest technical, legal, economic, ecological and ethical developments in the production and use of insects as feed and food as well as for the non-food sector. This time the focus was on insect rearing and production, regulatory hurdles and aspects such as sustainability and economic viability. The INSECTA is being organised by the Leibniz Institute of Agricultural Engineering and Bioeconomics (ATB) together with Pilot Pflanzenöltechnologie Magdeburg e.V. since 2015.
The insect industry is growing
Insects are increasingly regarded as the protein source of the future. “The hype surrounding the use of insects began around 2015 and has continued ever since,” said Dutch researcher Arnold van Huis. Large companies such as Hermetia from Germany, Proti-Farm from the Netherlands or the French company Ynsect are on a growth course. In addition, around 270 new start-ups have emerged worldwide in recent years. They want to conquer the market with insect burgers, energy bars or protein-rich pasta. And there is no end in sight to this trend: according to Van Huis, the insect industry is set to grow to 8 billion US dollars by 2030 and contribute to reducing meat consumption and thus CO2 emissions and land use, as well as enabling a protein-rich diet in developing countries. According to van Huis, they can also enrich the local diet: “Insects contain more antioxidants than orange juice or olive oil and chitin, which strengthens the immune system,” says the insect researcher.
Another field of application is the animal feed industry. Here, for example, the insect larvae of the black soldier fly could help to replace the environmentally harmful soya imports – of which Europe currently purchases around 30 million tons – in the long term. Katzbiotech is a pioneer in this field. For a long time, the medium-sized company concentrated mainly on wasps and flies for biological pest control – for some years now, they also have a breeding facility for soldier flies. And the approximately 300 tons of larvae feed meal that Katzbiotech currently produces are sought after on the market.
Legislation as a factor of uncertainty
Challenges for the sector are the regulatory hurdles and the slow speed with which the necessary laws are pushed forward. For many investors, legal certainty is cited as a basic prerequisite for further investment.
Several presentations at the INSECTA dealt with the regulatory landscape. Insects were mentioned for the first time in the EU Regulation on Novel Foods (EU) 2015/2283. Since 1 January 2018, they are considered novel foods and require authorisation. To avoid that the new Regulation leads to an interim ban on products, a transitional period of two years was granted to all products not considered novel under the old 1997 legislation. All potential applicants were invited to submit their request for authorisation to the European Food and Safety Authority (EFSA) by beginning of 2019 – first decisions are expected for early 2020.
There is also slow progress in the animal feed sector. To date, insects have only been approved as feed for pets and fish – there is no approval yet for cows, pigs or poultry. A political challenge here is that although there is a European umbrella organisation – the International Platform of Insects for Food and Feed (IPIFF) – not every European country has a national association that represents and promotes the interests of companies. According to Nicolas Carbonelle of Bird & Bird, who has been monitoring the legal situation in Brussels for years, the situation is “far from being simple”, although “a lot has happened in the past two years”.
Crucial point: economic viability
Another factor of uncertainty is profitability. While there are already some studies on the sustainability and health benefits, economic success will also depend on whether insect products appeal to consumers and whether the market for animal feed can be opened up. There are still some hurdles to overcome: upscaling the production could reduce prices and increase competitiveness – but this requires investment and legal certainty. The rearing of insects is environmentally friendly and economically sensible if waste, for example by-products from supply chains for cereals, fruit, vegetables and local food processing can be fed. This is not yet permitted – a decision is expected for early 2020.
When the INSECTA experts get together again on 10./11. September 2020 in Magdeburg, decisions on the European level will most likely have altered the legal environment. While it remains to be seen whether the sector can continue its dynamic growth, the experts will definitively have plenty to discuss.
The transition towards a new, bio-based regional economy needs the active involvement of a broad spectrum of stakeholders as well as the sustainable use of agricultural, forest and marine ecosystems. BE-Rural will support five innovation regions to realise the potential of their regional and local bio-based economies and to create bioeconomy strategies and roadmaps.
Engagement is critical
To achieve the project objectives, engagement with and of the local and regional stakeholders is crucial. BE-Rural will combine the living lab concept with an ‘open innovation platform’ approach. This means that the team will bring people together in a co-creation process and initiate new networks in which value and innovation will be created. This process will be open, inclusive and transparent – the project team will encourage representatives of government, business, academia and civil society to participate. A comprehensive documentation will ensure that interested stakeholders can join also at later stages of the process. Sustainability – social, environmental and economic – will be in the focus of the strategy design process.
Environment takes centre stage
BE-Rural takes a Quintuple Helix Approach which combines knowledge and innovation generated by key stakeholders from policy, business, academia and civil society within the frame of the environment. This approach is favourable to solve inter- and transdisciplinary challenges as the stakeholders involved have backgrounds in the field of natural sciences, social sciences and humanities etc. To ensure that the environment takes centre stage, BE-Rural will first analyse the regional framework conditions and make sure that new bio-based business models function within the environmental boundaries. Further, BE-Rural’s ambition is to foster the local implementation of the Agenda 2030, in particular SDG2 (zero hunger), SDG8 (decent work and economic growth), SDG9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure), SDG11 (sustainable cities and communities), SDG13 (climate action), SDG14 (life below water), SDG15 (life on land).
Action research focuses on working out concrete solutions to problems and building practical ‘how to’ knowledge. It is structured in the form of continuous feedback loops, with researchers involved at all stages of activity. BE-Rural will follow the Action Research scheme and go from planning, to action, to description and evaluation, to reflection, and then to planning and action once more.
The basis we are building on – BE-Rural conceptual framework
The BE-Rural conceptual framework adopts and builds upon the Research and Innovation Strategy for Smart Specialisation (RIS3), which states that national and regional authorities are required to design and implement Smart Specialisation Strategies to stimulate and support innovation, drawing on the European Structural & Investment Funds and national/regional resources (European Commission, 2012). According to Carayannis and Rakhmatullin (2014), “smart specialisation strategies mainly build on strengthening pre-existing specialisations at the regional level with the aim of reaching the European 2020 goals in research and innovation”. BE-Rural complements the RIS3 process and where RIS3 already exists, the project will engage with its structures, networks and stakeholders. The table in the Conceptual Framework deliverable (D1.1) illustrates how RIS3 assessment steps can be linked to BE-Rural.
Please take a look at the deliverable “Sustainability and Participation in the Bioeconomy: A Conceptual Framework for BE-Rural” here.