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Headlines Published on 12 December 2005

CONFERENCE, REVIEW
Title Conference lays the roots for knowledge-based bio-economy

For those unfamiliar with the term, the knowledge-based bio-economy may not set their hearts racing, but hundreds of delegates at a Brussels conference were upbeat at the prospects this promising new field had to offer. A follow-up report gives a tantalising taste of what lies ahead.

“As citizens of planet Earth, it is not surprising that we turn to Mother Earth – to life itself – to help our economies to develop in a way which should not just enhance our quality of life, but also maintain it for future generations,” EU Commissioner Janez Potočnik © European Commission
“As citizens of planet Earth, it is not surprising that we turn to Mother Earth – to life itself – to help our economies to develop in a way which should not just enhance our quality of life, but also maintain it for future generations,” EU Commissioner Janez Potočnik
© European Commission
Put quite simply, the bio-economy is huge. Being the oldest economic sector known to humanity, it is perhaps not surprising that it is worth an estimated €1.6 trillion a year in Europe. It covers all biomass-based sectors and industries, such as agri-food, pharmaceuticals, forestry and paper.

The life sciences and biotechnology are injecting new life into the bio-economy and rapidly transforming it into a knowledge-based bio-economy (KBBE) that converts basic knowledge into valuable applications.

“As citizens of planet Earth, it is not surprising that we turn to Mother Earth – to life itself – to help our economies to develop in a way which should not just enhance our quality of life, but also maintain it for future generations,” stated EU Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potočnik.

Under the title ‘The knowledge-based bio-economy: transforming life science knowledge into new, sustainable, eco-efficient products’, the gathering took place in Brussels in mid-September and the post-conference report has just been released.

Drawing participants from both national and European levels, the high-profile forum brought together policy-makers and civil servants, with representatives from industry, academia and civil society. Together, they plotted a course forward for the KBBE.

“Europe’s success requires a long-term and coherent vision,” emphasised Potočnik. “But the bio-economy is complex… Achieving a common vision among such a diversity of stakeholders is no easy task. This conference was an important step in that direction.”

Separating the juice from the pulp
The KBBE would not be possible without the rapid progress in the life sciences and biotechnology we have witnessed in recent decades. This cutting-edge sector can lead to applications and products in a wide range of fields, such as pioneering drugs and medical treatments, new agricultural products and practices, novel foods, biodegradable materials, as well as environmentally friendly biofuels.

Advanced biotechnology will, in all likelihood, lead to tailor-made foods targeted at specific consumer needs. In addition, industrial biotechnology is breaking new ground in understanding microbial biodiversity and bio-processes that could lead to valuable bio-products and bio-materials.

At its conclusion, the conference coined four Fs and four Cs to signpost the way ahead. “This gathering has shown that we now need to focus on the four Fs (food, fibre, fuel and feed) and the four Cs (changes, challenges, complexity and compliance),” noted Christian Patermann, director of Biotechnology, Agriculture and Food Research at the European Commission.







Source:  European Commission


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