“Europe has great potential to develop its bioeconomy. We have the raw material resources and the industrial expertise that is needed to become a global leader,” says Joanna Dupont-Inglis, Director of Industrial Biotechnology at EuropaBio (European Association for Bioindustries).
There is no doubt that a bioeconomy offering sustainable growth would bring many economic benefits to Europe. It would create jobs, add value to many sectors (e.g. farming and forestry) and revitalise rural areas. The environmental benefits would, of course, also be huge.
According to the European Bioeconomy Alliance (EUBA), the bioeconomy offers a viable solution to today's fossil carbon equivalents. It has the potential to remove up to 2.5 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions each year. This amount is more than half the greenhouse gas emissions generated by EU industries and households in 2013.
"In Europe, there is a growing appreciation of sustainability. This will increase the demand for renewable alternatives to traditional fossil-carbon based products. The challenges we face are commercialising emerging biobased products on a larger scale and creating new markets for these,"says Joanna Dupont-Inglis at Europa- Bio.
What is needed to unlock the full potential of the European bioeconomy?
"In terms of policy, we need a holistic, predictable and supportive EU framework. This would stimulate the necessary cooperation between different sectors. Instead of the old linear fossil-carbon models, we have to work in new, innovative and more complex ways with many different industries. It is also important that each EU country and region makes efforts to encourage productivity and sustainability in agriculture and forestry."
How important is the forest industry?
"The forest industry already makes a very significant contribution to the development of Europe's bioeconomy. For example, the industry is investing heavily in biorefineries and the development of new biobased packaging materials and new forest products."
What might happen if Europe does not seize the growth potential?
"At the moment, Europe has the technology and expertise to lead the global transition. However, other regions are acting very fast. What we do not want to see is all the investment, jobs and technology going overseas to regions which have more attractive and supportive conditions. We have the potential to be a real asset in the EU's quest to create jobs, growth and competitive, sustainable, biobased solutions. We must not lose this."