Around 100 bioeconomy experts will meet today at the European Commission in Brussels to discuss findings and recommendations of the EU-funded BioSTEP project. One result after three years of work: European bioeconomy stakeholder engagement needs to focus on civil society integration as a crucial cornerstone to improve the visibility of bioeconomy in the future. The recommendations presented during the final conference of the project will be discussed with leading representatives of the EU Bioeconomy Stakeholder Panel and EC representatives to further develop the European bioeconomy eco-system.
Over the past three years, nine BioSTEP partners from Germany, Italy, Bulgaria, the Netherlands and the UK joined forces to design and implement participatory tools such as product exhibitions, living labs, workshops and conferences. The aim: to engage citizens and other bioeconomy stakeholder groups in discussions about the future development of Europe’s bioeconomy. Several exhibitions showcasing bioeconomy innovations reached more than 4,000 people in Scotland, Italy and Bulgaria. In science centres, people were able to see, touch and experience the bioeconomy – such as shoes made from rice husks, car tyres made from dandelion or a brick manufactured by microorganisms.
In 14 Living Lab meetings in Veneto and Stara Zagora, regional stakeholders from local industry, government, the farming sector, consultants and researchers met to discuss the role and further development of their local bioeconomies. As a result, regional bioeconomy roadmaps have been developed. To scrutinize public involvement in the development of already existing bioeconomy strategies, six case studies were selected and 85 people interviewed. The results were verified in regional workshops and validation meetings. Bioeconomy-related policy gaps were identified via a survey that was completed by 182 individuals. The findings of all these activities provided the basis for four policy workshops in Utrecht, Glasgow, Graz and Brussels and led to a policy paper that was presented to bioeconomy stakeholders in 2017.
Now, the BioSTEP consortium will present its good practices, lessons learned and policy recommendations at a final conference in Brussels. “They can provide inspiration for the development of new innovative engagement tools in the bioeconomy sector and beyond”, emphasizes Holger Gerdes, project leader of BioSTEP and Senior Fellow at the Ecologic Institute in Berlin. The final conference is anticipated with great interest – more than 100 experts registered for the event at the European Commission. Kate Millar, Director at the Centre for Applied Bioethics at the University of Nottingham and member of the BioSTEP consortium is looking forward to the conference and stresses: “Science and technology need to be better intertwined with society, which requires tailored and inclusive engagement activities”. One of the key factors of improving bioeconomy visibility is the communication of already existing innovative bio-based products and processes. “During the exhibitions, we learned that people are very interested in topics such as sustainability and ecology, but they often didn’t recognise the connection with the political concept of bioeconomy”, adds Boris Mannhardt, CEO of BIOCOM AG, responsible for the communication and dissemination of the project. “Bringing bioeconomy to the citizens is a promising way forward for the future.”
The final conference of the project will take place on Thursday, 22 February 2018 from 12.30 – 18.00 in the European Commission (registration is no longer possible). The agenda of the conference can be downloaded here. Important contributions to the conference outside the BioSTEP consortium will come from Waldemar Kütt from DG Research & Innovation, European Commission, Joanna Dupont-Inglis from EuropaBio and Chair of the EU Bioeconomy Stakeholders Panel and Christine Bunthof from Wageningen UR and member of the EU Bioeconomy Stakeholders Panel. The final publication “Engaging stakeholders and citizens in the bioeconomy: lessons learned from BioSTEP and recommendations for future research”, which provides the basis for today’s discussion, is already available for download at the BioSTEP website.
About BioSTEP: BioSTEP aims to engage citizens and various stakeholder groups in discussions about the future development of Europe’s bioeconomy. The BioSTEP project is funded under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (Grant Agreement no. 652682) and runs from March 2015 until February 2018. Coordinated by Ecologic Institute, the collaborative project builds upon a highly interdisciplinary consortium of nine partners from five European countries.