Switching from fossil fuels towards a bio-based economy (i.e. one in which energy is derived from biomass – organic material such as trees, plants and agricultural waste) will cut harmful emissions, reduce waste and create market demand for new bio-based products. However, increased biomass production must be achieved in a sustainable manner if it is to contribute towards a resource-efficient economy.
Mapping a sustainable future
With this in mind, the EU-funded SAHYOG project has encouraged EU and Indian researchers to share knowledge, collaborate effectively and work towards agreed common objectives for biomass and biowaste.
“Both continents have acknowledged the need to make better use of biomass and bio-waste resources and to develop an integrated bio-refinery approach for the future,” explains SAHYOG project coordinator Dr Neeta Sharma from the ENEA Research Centre in Trisaia, Italy. “But a sustainable plan first needs to be put in place. In this way, I believe that this project represents an important step towards replacing oil refineries with bio-refineries capable of sustainably processing biomass into a spectrum of marketable products and useful energy.”
A key success has been the publication of two in-depth inventories of biomass and biowaste, the first providing a detailed regional analysis of data on biomass production and availability from forestry, agriculture and waste in Europe and India. The second presents an overview of 924 research projects and programmes in the EU and 280 in India. Both updated inventories are available on the project’s website.
Using the inventories as a basis, the project team of EU and Indian researchers then worked on a joint Strategic Research Agenda (SRA) covering biomass and bio-waste resource issues, conversion technology and bio-refinery systems as well as markets, products and policies. The SRA also drafted standards for the performance criteria of bio-based products.
These documents finally led to a roadmap for EU-India collaboration on future research, aimed at both policy-makers and researchers. “This will help to bridge ongoing activities in both India and Europe and facilitate the planning of future EU-India research initiatives,” adds Sharma. “In fact, based on the successful results of this project, two further India-Europe joint calls for bioeconomy research were recently launched.”
Mutually beneficial collaboration
The SAHYOG project has also sought to foster continued partnerships between the two regions. These partnerships have been achieved through a variety of initiatives. Two summer schools for European and Indian students were held in Greece and India, with renowned international experts providing lectures and presenting latest developments.
In addition, a workshop brought together coordinators of current EU and Indian initiatives in to engage them in project twinning. This enabled project participants to discuss potential areas of future scientific cooperation with their counterparts, based on pre-agreed priority subject areas. “Twinning is based on the exchange of research that goes beyond what happens at regular scientific conferences”, explains Sharma. “The SAHYOG project was able to bring together coordinators from past and ongoing projects as well as international networks.”
Together with the online inventories, the SRA and the roadmap, these practical initiatives will encourage closer research cooperation, and ensure that EU and Indian researchers are working on the same action plan. “By co-opting specific strengths from both Europe and India, researchers will be able to carry out more effective and efficient research and thereby enhance the bio-based economy as a whole,” concludes Sharma.
- Project acronym: SAHYOG
- Participants: Italy (Coordinator), Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Greece, India
- Project Reference N° 289615
- Total cost: € 1 921 875
- EU contribution: € 996 095
- Duration: December 2011 – November 2014