The eagerly anticipated EU strategy on the bioeconomy has, today, been adopted by the European Commission. “This is a milestone moment for Europe and for Europeans” commented Lars Hansen, Chair of EuropaBio’s Industrial Biotech Council. “and, hopefully, it won’t go unnoticed, since it represents a giant leap forwards in securing smarter, more sustainable growth and jobs across the member states for the future.”
The EU Bioeconomy strategy, spearheaded by Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn’s DG Research and Innovation, plots a roadmap for creating a society far less dependent on fossil fuels. Industrial Biotechnology plays a central role in achieving this, through the sustainable processing and production of biobased products, chemicals, materials and fuels from biomass and agricultural waste, reducing the EU’s dependence on oil, coal and gas and creating jobs across a wide range of sectors and disciplines.
By developing this strategy the Commission has, for the first time, united a vast, highly-skilled value chain and workforce of Europeans – from the farmers cultivating EU land to the scientists, innovators and industry sectors working towards providing the greener products and sustainable processes that Europeans are seeking. An estimated 22 million Europeans, who represent the driving force of the bioeconomy itself, are already worldwide leaders in turning this vision into a reality.
“We have the technological edge here in the EU and, in the face of mounting economic and environmental challenges and burgeoning international interest in this field, it’s vital that we keep it.” said Nathalie Moll, EuropaBio’s Secretary General. “We applaud the Commission for its inclusive approach towards developing this strategy which has involved thorough consultation with the whole value chain and has the support of several key Directorate Generals within the Commission. The EU’s leadership is helping to ensure the bioeconomy will bring big benefits for our economy and for our environment in the process.”
However, many challenges remain to be tackled, not least in raising understanding of what the bioeconomy represents and awareness of the benefits it can provide both in the EU and worldwide. Risks too must be responsibly managed throughout the value chain to ensure that the growth of the bioeconomy lives up to its potential for delivering sustainability and resource efficiency. Overcoming the hurdles associated with the deployment of new technologies and bridging the so-called innovation Valley of Death between research and market remains a critical challenge in Europe and one that requires a robust and stable political framework underpinning the entire biobased value chain.
Lars Hansen concluded: “It’s vital that we have the full support of the member states to make the bioeconomy an EU success story. Now that we are off the starting blocks, we have a clear view of the remaining hurdles in our path. These including the need to secure feedstock through the CAP, to build new and improve existing pilot and demonstration biorefineries, for example through Public Private Partnerships, and to stimulate market demand for biobased products. The transition from a fossil fuel-based to a renewable bioeconomy is going to be a marathon not a sprint for all of us – but run the right way it is a race that the EU can lead and win.”
Source: EuropaBio, 2012-02-13.