Europe can 'rise to challenge' of unleashing bioeconomic potential

The EU's bioeconomic strategy could provide much-needed answers to many of the bloc's problems, explains Paolo Bartolozzi

By Paolo Bartolozzi

07 May 2014

Over the coming decades the EU will find itself having to address major social and energy challenges. It is against this backdrop that bioeconomy could be the answer to fossil fuel dependency and the route to take towards intelligent growth. Taking a longer-term view, it could also prove to be the answer in terms of food safety, reduced environmental impact, waste recycling, sustainable use of resources and increased employment. Bioeconomy could also make a significant contribution towards stemming and actually reversing the tide of deindustrialisation currently afflicting Europe. Indeed, investment in this sector would mean promoting the creation of new value chains and containing the number of abandoned industrial sites, while at the same time sustaining economic and social development with a return to very high levels of employment.

In order for this potential to be fully deployed, an all-encompassing approach made up of interconnected instruments and cohesive initiatives and policies is required. The bioeconomy model needs to be viewed as a synthesis involving a synergy between European policies on agriculture, industry, the environment, research and innovation and between the various decision-making levels - from the community to the regional and local - so as to create a coordinated environment in which it would be possible for there to be a constant exchange of knowledge, skills, information and knowhow.

It will likewise be important to back and develop cohesive, interconnected research programmes, make provision for instruments to support industrial investment and, above all, ensure that the results achieved have the maximum impact on society and are fully understood by the citizens of Europe.

"Bioeconomy could… be the answer to fossil fuel dependency and the route to take towards intelligent growth"

Europe has the capacity to rise to such challenges and is in the process of putting in place the tools which will enable it to address the needs presented by the challenges in question. Indeed, a great many initiatives have been undertaken in this regard. In July 2013, the parliament approved its opinion in the matter of bioeconomy, underlining its potential and highlighting the benefits which its coherent development could bring to the European economy and growth, while at the same time calling upon the commission to set out an appropriate strategy.

It was on the back of these recommendations that the work needed to set up the bioeconomy observatory and the European bioeconomy panel was embarked upon, the respective aims of which being to provide the political decision makers and interested parties with data and analyses on a regular basis so as to monitor the development of bioeconomy, supporting the implementation of the relevant strategy, and contributing to the strengthening of the synergies and cohesion between policies, initiatives and the economic sectors concerned.

Work has recently been concluded on the proposal for a council regulation on the bio-based industries joint undertaking, aimed at launching the joint bio-based industries technological initiative (bio-based industries JTI) which, initiated for a period expiring on 31 December 2024, will be a European Union organisation. The new forms of partnership fostered by the bio-based industries JTI will be able to combine the joint contribution of both the public and private sector, and will themselves make a significant contribution to economic recovery by making it possible to support new projects, promote the development of new products and, above all, ensure their actual transfer to market, reducing the risk of more favourable conditions prompting the migration of excellence and innovative projects away from Europe.

All this is the measure of the dynamic, all-encompassing, multi-disciplinary approach which Europe has adopted in the preparation of its bioeconomic strategy. Indeed, only an approach of this kind will be able to resolve critical economic issues and, in the longer term, create more sustainable and effective production, consumption, development and lifestyle models, capable of reviving the process of European growth.