In February 2012, the European Commission (EC) launched Europe’s Bioeconomy Strategy, which focuses on how renewable biological resources can be converted into products and bioenergy. According to the EC, the bioeconomy refers to “those parts of the economy that use renewable biological resources from land and sea—such as crops, forests, fish, animals and micro-organisms—to produce food, materials and energy.” Under Horizon 2020, the EU’s research program spanning 2014 to 2020, the Bioeconomy Strategy has received €3.85 billion ($4.44 billion) in funding. The proposed Horizon Europe plan, the research program for 2021-2027, includes a €10 billion ($11.8 billion) proposal for funding for research on food and natural resources, which encompasses bioeconomy funding.
Since 2012, the Strategy has generated economic growth in the EU, with an annual turnover of €2.3 trillion ($2.7 trillion), and €621 billion ($716.6 billion) of value added to the EU’s economy representing 4.2% of the EU’s GDP. Bio-based positions account for 8% of the EU’s workforce. The initiative has also helped reduce emissions and the region’s dependence on fossil-based resources.
As set out by the Strategy, the main categories of the EU bioeconomy are agriculture; forestry; fishing and aquaculture; food, beverages and other agro-manufacturing; bio-based textiles; wood products and furniture; paper; bio-based chemicals and pharmaceuticals, plastics and rubber; liqud biofuels; and bioelectricity.
As per industry forecasts, biotechnology demand will double by 2030, which indicates the need for improved funding, innovation and regulatory frameworks.
In a review conducted last November of the Strategy’s progress, the EC concluded that although EU member states are recognizing the initiative by making efforts towards fulfilling its objectives, there are still improvements to be made in regards to mobilizing investments, especially private investments in integrated biorefineries, as well as to enhancing assessment and monitoring frameworks to evaluate progress of the initiative. The review indicated that policy contexts in particular have undergone significant changes since the Strategy was first launched in 2012, especially with the establishment of global policy advancements, such as the Circular Economy, the Paris Agreement and the Energy Union.
Earlier this month, the EU updated the Bioeconomy Strategy in order to accelerate the implementation of a sustainable bioeconomy and maximize the contributions it makes towards the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement. As per industry forecasts, biotechnology demand will double by 2030, indicating the need for improved funding, innovation and regulatory frameworks.
The update indicated that although the initial goals of the Strategy remain effective, they need to be adapted to meet current and future EU goals. The five aims of the Bioeconomy Strategy are: safeguarding food and nutrition safety, especially due to increases in world population, consumer demands for more sustainable food production and threats from climate change; managing natural resources sustainably by taking action to avoid land degradation and restore degraded ecosystems; lessening dependence on nonrenewable resources, which can help contribute to the EU’s target of utilizing at least 32% renewable energy by 2030; reducing and adapting to climate change by regulating climate through a bio-based industrial base, as well as reducing emissions and energy demand; and boosting EU competitiveness and job creation.
Although these goals remain, the EC proposed an additional three-tiered plan: to strengthen existing bio-based sectors, which will help stimulate new investments and markets; to rapidly implement local bioeconomies across the continent by transitioning to sustainable farming, food and forestry frameworks, as well as provide more diversified means of revenues; and to understand the environmental boundaries of the bioeconomy by, for example, enhancing monitoring progress towards a sustainable bioeconomy.