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EC Adopts its Strategy for a Sustainable Bioeconomy

The European Commission has today presented its strategy and action plan for a sustainable bioeconomy in Europe, called "Innovating for Sustainable Growth: a Bioeconomy for Europe". The goal is a more innovative and low-emissions economy, reconciling demands for sustainable agriculture and fisheries, food security, and the sustainable use of renewable biological resources for industrial purposes, while ensuring biodiversity and environmental protection.

The plan therefore focuses on three key aspects: developing new technologies and processes for the bioeconomy; developing markets and competitiveness in bioeconomy sectors; and pushing policymakers and stakeholders to work more closely together.

The bioeconomy in the European Union

The bioeconomy encompasses the sustainable production of renewable biological resources and their conversion and that of waste streams into food, feed, bio-based productssuch as bioplastics, biofuels and bioenergy. It includes agriculture, forestry, fisheries, food and pulp and paper production, as well as parts of chemical, biotechnological and energy industries.

Its sectors have a strong innovation potential due to their use of a wide range of sciences (life sciences, agronomy, ecology, food science and social sciences), enabling industrial technologies (biotechnology, nanotechnology, information and communication technologies (ICT), and engineering), as well as local and tacit knowledge.

The EU bioeconomy already has a turnover of nearly 2 trillion euro and employs more than 22 million people, 9% of total employment in the EU (see Table 1). It includes agriculture, forestry, fisheries, food and pulp and paper production, as well as parts of chemical, biotechnological and energy industries.

Table 1: The bioeconomy in the European Union


Annual turnover (billion euro)

Employment (thousands)

Data source













Forestry/Wood ind.




Fisheries and Aquaculture




Bio-based industries




 Bio-chemicals and plastics

50 (estimation*)

150 (estimation*)

USDA, Arthur D Little, Festel, McKinsey, CEFIC


0.8 (estimation*)

5 (estimation*)

Amfep, Novozymes, Danisco/Genencor, DSM




EBB, eBio






The Bioeconomy Strategy: three key pillars

1) Investing in research, innovation and skills

The strategy will promote research and innovation activities to increase EU leadership and investment in the bioeconomy, increase the share of the skilled bioeconomy labour force and promote entrepreneurship.

The need to increase public funding for bioeconomy research and innovation has been recognised in the European Commission's proposal for its future research programme Horizon 2020.

4.5 billion euro have already been proposed for the Horizon 2020 'societal challenge' theme "Food security, sustainable agriculture, marine and maritime research, and the bioeconomy".  Furthermore, bioeconomy themes will also be partially supported under elements of the Horizon 2020 themes "Climate action, resource efficiency and raw materials", "Secure, clean and efficient energy" and "Health, demographic changes and wellbeing".

This will be complemented by research and innovation in enabling and industrial technologies (e.g. biotechnology, nanotechnology and ICT) and the promotion of emerging technologies. Providing stakeholders along the entire bioeconomy value chain with a toolbox that includes a range of key enabling technologies will also be critical to the implementation of a wide range of bioeconomy-related policies.

In order to promote the skills required to support the growth and further integration of bioeconomy sectors, new bioeconomy curricula and vocational training schemes will also be developed.

2) Market development and enhanced competitiveness of bioeconomy sectors

Enhancing market development and better resource efficiency in the bioeconomy sectors - agriculture and forestry; fisheries and aquaculture; bio-based industries; and the food chain - will create additional growth and jobs.

The increased research funding for the bioeconomy under Horizon 2020, along with a stronger innovation drive and reinforced policy interaction prescribed by the Bioeconomy Strategy, is estimated to generate an added value of about 45 billion euro and 130 000 jobs in bioeconomy sectors by 2025. It will also contribute to the Commission's Europe 2020 goals and to the roadmap for moving to a low-carbon economy in 2050.

If the European bio-based industry is to remain competitive, it needs to bring more products and services from the drawing board onto the market. This will deliver direct benefits to citizens, such as food security and sustainability, sustainable agriculture, secure and clean efficient energy and the transition to a resource-efficient, low-carbon economy. The action plan aims to provide support for this process by supporting research and innovation and building the knowledge base to support cross-cutting policies.

New markets can be developed by:

-       Developing standards and standardised sustainability assessment methodologies for bio-based products and food production systems and supporting demonstration and scale-up activities;

-       Facilitating green procurement for bio-based products by developing specific labels, an initial European product information list and specific training for public procurers;

-       Putting in place incentives and mutual learning mechanisms for improved resource efficiency;

-       Starting negotiations for establishing research and innovation Public Private Partnerships for bio-based industries at European level.

3) Stronger policy coordination and engagement with stakeholders

The Bioeconomy Strategy calls for a more informed dialogue and better interaction and coordination across various policies in place at the EU and Member State level. This will provide a more coherent policy framework and encourage investment.


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