Innovative bio-based alternatives already exist for many products derived from fossil fuels, and research teams worldwide are busily developing new solutions. An EU-funded project is encouraging Europeans to explore the prospect of a sustainable economy firmly rooted in renewables and fostering dialogue on its governance.
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BioSTEP, a three-year project launched in March 2015, is raising public awareness of the European bioeconomy and calling on stakeholders to engage with the concept. Activities aimed at three distinct target groups are being organised, with partners reaching out to policymakers, actors in science, academia and civil society, as well as the general public.
The team has found a number of ways to stimulate interaction with and among these very different audiences. Examples include publications and videos, workshops and conferences.
The project also organises ‘living labs’ innovation-focused partnerships formed by stakeholders from the public and private sectors, as well as the general public, cooperating on tasks such as the development of products or the definition of strategies. Insights from case studies in Bulgaria and Italy will feed into the partners’ work to identify and disseminate best practices in the development of bioeconomy strategies at regional or national levels.
In addition, a BioSTEP exhibition highlights familiar and more recent innovations that are already present in daily life, although consumers may not necessarily perceive them as expressions of Europe’s budding bioeconomy. Some of the showcased products enzymatic laundry detergents, for instance, or eco-friendly washing-up liquid are already widely used, and many visitors will be aware of advances such as biodegradable coffee capsules. In contrast, probiotic toothpaste, bioreactor façades, and dresses made from milk may come as a surprise.
The exhibition premiered in Glasgow in October 2016 before travelling on to Italy for display in Brescia and Padua. It is also accessible online.