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Promoting stakeholder engagement and public awareness for a participative governance of the European bioeconomy

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - BioSTEP (Promoting stakeholder engagement and public awareness for a participative governance of the European bioeconomy)

Reporting period: 2016-09-01 to 2018-02-28

The bioeconomy holds potential solutions to important challenges of the future. Bio-based products and processes may, however, entail (intended or unintended) impacts on human society and the environment. These impacts may occur along the entire value chain of bio-based products and might be linked to the production of biomass, to biorefinery (and related) processes, and to the actual characteristics and effects of the new, bio-based products. Thus, the social, economic and environmental impacts associated with the bioeconomy will require extensive dialogue processes on the future development of the bioeconomy.
BioSTEP promoted a dialogue process that tried to bring together different stakeholders from policy, science, economy and society and aimed at promoting stakeholder engagement and public awareness for a participative governance of the European bioeconomy. This dialogue process drew attention to concerns and objectives of the bioeconomy and, at the same time, provided new insights into perceived justification deficits and acceptable implementation strategies.
BioSTEP applied a three-tier approach that aimed at reaching all relevant actors in the bioeconomy domain, particularly policy-makers, various stakeholder groups (scientists, businesses, non-governmental organisations), and citizens. Tailored communication tools, including workshops, conferences and exhibitions were developed for each target group in order to maximize outreach and facilitate active engagement in informed debates on the bioeconomy. At regional level, a living lab approach has been applied and tested, which facilitated the involvement of public-private networks of stakeholders in bioeconomy-based innovation and business model development processes.
"Work Package 2
WP2 has summarised existing information on products, processes, actors and activities in the field of the bioeconomy and included three consecutive works steps. The first work step identified meaningful information from the perspective of consumers, businesses and public procurement officials on existing bioeconomy products and processes, the personal benefits for consumers and their social, environmental and economic impacts in a database framed from an end-user perspective. Therefore, a number of products and their underlying processes have been selected (e.g. clothing, paints, bottles, biofuels). The second and third work steps identified existing information in an overview of actors, bioeconomy strategies at national and regional levels and network activities and their impacts on public debate and participative governance in the bioeconomy domain.

Work Package 3
BioSTEP partners have delivered two reports, based on six case studies examining participative governance in bioeconomy strategies. Two case studies (D3.1) focus on national bioeconomy strategies in Finland and Germany. The remaining four case studies (D3.2) focus on the regions of the Biobased Delta (the Netherlands), Saxony-Anhalt (Germany), the Veneto (Italy) and Scotland (United Kingdom). D3.1 and D3.2 examine how stakeholder organisations and citizens have participated in the design, implementation and review of national and regional bioeconomy strategies, and highlight common/diverse approaches to strategy development, as well as challenges and opportunities. A third report (D3.3) developed good practice guidelines based on the national and regional case studies.

Work Package 4
In fulfilment of WP4 and as a basis for BioSTEP's policy workshops, a stakeholder database with relevant contacts was produced and a web-based stakeholder consultation was carried out. The findings of the consultation revealed that some of the strongest perceived benefits of the bioeconomy are managing resources sustainably and its support for investment in new infrastructures, knowledge, innovation and skills. Strongest stakeholder agreement on challenges of the bioeconomy was indicated with respect to sustainability assurance, policy coherence, appropriate financing, and participative dialogue with the public and bioeconomy stakeholders. These aspects were taken up in three policy workshops which BioSTEP organised at European, national and regional level. The outcomes of these workshops fed into a policy paper which aimed to inform the review and update of the EU Bioeconomy Strategy.

Work Package 5
The objective of WP5 was to inform, but also to actively involve stakeholders in a dialogue process on the prospects, benefits and challenges of a bio-based economy. The basis for this is a coherent and clear communication strategy that tailors the right information to the right audience in the right manner. To achieve this, BioSTEP's Public Engagement and Knowledge Sharing Strategy identifies distinct target groups, communication tools as well as channels and methods for engagement. BioSTEP's exhibition ""Bioeconmy in Everyday Life"" was organised in four locations across Europe to raise awareness of the bioeconomy and involve citizens in a dialogue about its potential benefits and challenges.

Work Package 6
An analysis of bioeconomy-related sectors in the Veneto region of Italy and the Stara Zagora region of Bulgaria has been conducted by collecting statistical, economic and technological information concerning the sectors involved in the development of bioeconomy-related supply chains. The focus has been put on those enterprises having at least one product or a line of products being certified as “organic” by third party certification bodies. On this basis, BioSTEP designed and implemented so-called 'living labs' in the two regions which brought together a range of stakeholders who jointly developed strategies for strengthened bioeconomy sector that builds on regional biomass streams."
The work carried out in BioSTEP highlighted that the involvement of different stakeholder groups and citizens in the development of strategies promoting a bio-based economy is crucial. At the same time, however, it was shown that activities aiming at participative governance at the national and regional level are limited. Following the overall objective of BioSTEP to promote stakeholder and public engagement in the development of bioeconomy strategies, various tools for engagement have been applied and tested. The BioSTEP consortium reached out to stakeholders from different countries, sectors and policy domains and engaged in discussions on bioeconomy-related topics. The lessons learned from the application of BioSTEP's participatory tools have been summarised in a report (D4.2) which also includes recommendations for future research.