Strasbourg, 4.10.2018 – From research to reality: How Europe’s bioeconomy is leading the way to a truly circular economy
Stephen Webb, CEO of RTDS Group and Coordinator of the two EU-funded projects SUSBIND and SUSFERT, had the honour to present the projects at the European Parliament to policy makers in Strasbourg for the occasion of the Biobased Breakfast, under the title “From research to reality: How Europe’s bioeconomy is leading the way to a truly circular economy”.
The event was organised by EP Intergroup CCBSD on 4th October 2018 and opened by MEP Miapetra Kumpula-Natri, Chair of the Bioeconomy Working Group of the EP Intergroup on “Climate Change, Biodiversity, and Sustainable Development”. For this occasion, several European bioeconomy stakeholders that have moved beyond research and are already making contributions to circular economy met here.
Implementing the European bioeconomy
The event demonstrated how bioeconomy works in practice across Europe by presenting several initiatives and projects spanning from planet-friendly bioplastics to new food ingredients, from renewable energy solutions to sustainably produced chemicals aiming to create a resource-efficient and largely waste-free use of Europe’s renewable raw materials. Project coordinators from Austria, Spain, France and the Netherlands accompanied by European Parliamentarians discussed current challenges of bioeconomy from the perspective of policy makers, industry and consumers.
The main idea behind the bioeconomy concept is to use biological resources instead of fossil raw material. It combines research, innovation, technology, environment & economy. Bioeconomy takes an integrative multidisciplinary approach, it is a collaborative effort between different fields, using the know-how of technical and natural sciences with a goal to create innovations that would have economic and environmental benefit.
The debate identified three current major challenges in bioeconomy: (1) Production costs are high, which makes it difficult for producers to remain in the market, and it is challenging to convince the consumers to pay more; (2) shifting towards low-carbon economies needs a greater support by Member States especially to local companies (3) there is still a lack of a strong European network to increase knowledge and create cross-border co-operation.
According to RTDS CEO, Stephen Webb, the regulatory framework is not keeping up with the speed of innovations in technology, which is hindering new technologies from entering the markets. “While new technologies are needed to bring products to the market, classifying waste as a material is an approach that already provides excellent potential’’. He also pointed out that consumers are willing to pay more for bio-based products. ‘’Bioeconomy provides great opportunities to create new jobs, also in rural and pre-urban areas”, added MEP Bogovič, committing to support the European Commission’s proposal within AGRI and REGI Committees.
Bioeconomy high on the EU Agenda
Bioeconomy stands high on the EU Agenda. The Europe 2020 Strategy calls for bioeconomy as a key element for smart and green growth in Europe. As stated in the strategy paper, in order to cope with an increasing global population, rapid depletion of many resources, increasing environmental pressures and climate change, Europe needs to radically change its approach to production, consumption, processing, storage, recycling and disposal of resources.
The Biobased Industries Joint Undertaking (BBI-JU) has a budget of €3.7 billion raised between the EC and industry for the current legislative period, which is complemented by another €6.8 billion in H2020. At least another €10 billon of funding is earmarked for the bioeconomy research and innovation in the upcoming Horizon Europe programme.
SUSBIND and SUSFERT- Away from fossil based-materials, to sustainable renewables
SUSBIND and SUSFERT implement bioeconomy with partners covering the value chain from research on the one hand and large industry and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) on the other. The SUSBIND consortium develops, produces and tests bio-based binders as an alternative to fossil-based binders currently used for wood-based panel boards in furniture. The goal of the project is to 1) substitute fossil-based chemicals with those from renewable resources and 2) to improve indoor air quality through reduced emissions from furniture and other wood-based panel board applications.
SUSFERT develops more sustainable, multifunctional fertilisers for phosphorus and iron supply fitting into existing fertiliser production processes and EU agricultural practice. It combines bio-based and biodegradable coatings for controlled release, probiotics to increase nutrient availability and the renewable phosphorous source struvite. SUSFERT demonstrates fertiliser efficacy for major crops, evaluates the economic potential and sustainability of the tested products, ensures regulatory compliance and finally prepares market entry.
Both projects aim to reduce non-renewable components in the current production and replace them with renewable elements that will in turn lead to a sustainable, circular economy. The projects both have highly skilled partners with extensive technological background and research excellence, along with strong private sector involvement to pursue market uptake. SUSFERT and SUSBIND will contribute to the transformation of Europe towards a resource efficient society that relies more on utilising renewable biological resources which in turn, will have a positive effect climate change, food security, and satisfaction consumer needs and industrial demands.
Project and Communication Manager