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EUBCE 2019: Showcasing what it takes to build the bioeconomy

If the European Commission’s 2018 strategy for a climate neutral economy by 2050 is to succeed, the EUBCE 2019 conference in Lisbon underlined that it will not do so based on technical advances alone. As well as investment, it will require a range of collaborations.

The European Commission’s communication about its strategy for a climate neutral economy by 2050, makes it clear that success involves not only investing in realistic technological solutions, but also ‘empowering citizens and aligning action in key areas such as industrial policy, finance, or research.’ EUBCE provided CORDIS with a good opportunity to learn more about EU-funded initiatives working to achieve just that. Investment and collaboration for a new sector The Bio-Based Industries Joint Undertaking (BBI JU) is funded through the EU’s Horizon 2020 fund (EUR 975 million) and private investment (EUR 2.7 billion). Guided by the Strategic Innovation and Research Agenda (SIRA) developed by the industry, this partnership between the EU and the Bio-based Industries Consortium sets out the challenges facing the nascent bioeconomy. According to Ana Costa, Communications Assistant with the BBI JU (an exhibitor at EUBCE), bringing together bio-based players from academia, large industry, SMEs and primary producers, to establish bioeconomy value chains has resulted in pipeline investment leaping from around EUR 2 billion in 2014, to around EUR 5 billion in 2018. “We have helped bring Europe to a place where investors feel that it is secure to invest and that the regulation is going in a direction they feel comfortable with,” says Ana. One of the key ways in which BBI JU achieves this is through its Call for Proposals. “We fund projects from labs to flagships … from labs looking at biomass materials, to biorefineries already producing products going onto supermarket shelves”, says Ana. With around 100 projects currently in its portfolio, BBI JU investment of around EUR half a billion has resulted in more than a 100 new bio-based value chains, well over the target of 10 by 2020. The current call is open until 4 September with a total budget of EUR 135 million and is built around four strategic orientations: Feedstock, Process, Products, and Market uptake. “One of the challenges for the bioeconomy is the fragmentation of the sector, as it touches on so many different areas such as agricultural, industry, forestry and municipalities … this is still something that needs to be overcome,” adds Ana. Co-creating the bioeconomy Thankfully the exhibition space at EUBCE offered memorable EU-funded examples of efforts to increase collaboration and reduce sector fragmentation. BIOVOICES was set up to involve stakeholders from public authorities (including policy makers), industry, researchers and civic society, in the decisions shaping the bioeconomy. By offering forums for discussion and debate, it seeks to increase the acceptance, relevance, know-how and quality of biobased innovations and products. Midway through the project, BIOVOICES is currently organising 70 events around Europe, many of which are designed with a common framework for comparable results, to illuminate differences between countries. “The main outcome will be recommendations for the European Commission in terms of future paths for the new Horizon Europe fund. New topics and new research subjects will come out from here,” says Alexandre Almeida, Innovation Consultant with the project. Another inspiring exhibitor facilitating cooperation across the bioeconomy, was the EU-funded BRISK2 initiative. BRISK2 targets early stage biofuel researchers in academia and industry, seek access to further facilities and expertise. Its knowledge exchange can tap into the resources of 15 key bioenergy partners with 55 installations across Europe, offering the support of well equipped labs and leading scientists. “Suppose you’re doing your PhD and you want to upscale your process or do some modelling but you don’t have enough data, our platform can provide these things,” Daniel Nowakowski, EBRI Laboratories Manager of Aston University, UK, explains. Additionally, as well as maintaining an accessible database of biomass properties, BRISK2 also works on biofuel protocols for the sector. “We know about the limitations of the end products, so we can work on standardisation after characterisation by our partners”, says Daniel. The road to a bio-based economy will almost certainly not be without its potholes and detours, but on the evidence of EUBCE it will be travelled by ingenious and cooperative enthusiasts in it for the long haul. For more information, please see: event website