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Biotechnology, agriculture and food

The first shoots of the knowledge-based bio-economy

Background description

Planting the seeds of a vibrant knowledge-based economy has been a strategic goal for the European Union since it launched its landmark Lisbon Strategy in March 2000. The Commission recently decided that Europe’s massive bio-economy – which is worth an estimated €1.5 trillion a year – needed to be brought under the Lisbon umbrella in one neat package, known as the knowledge-based bio-economy (KBBE).

This covers all biomass-based sectors and industries, such as agri-food, forestry and paper, and hence touches the daily life of every European. “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,” said EU Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potočnik.


The life sciences and biotechnology are injecting new life into the bio-economy by converting basic knowledge into valuable new applications. This innovation process is essentially what the KBBE is all about.

The KBBE 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. But to reap the full rewards of the KBBE requires a long-term and coherent vision. Under the slogan ‘transforming life science knowledge into new, sustainable, eco-efficient products’, a gathering took place in Brussels in 2005 to help formulate just such a strategic outlook. The high-profile forum brought policymakers and civil servants together with representatives from industry, academia and civil society.

Full title: The knowledge-based bio-economy
Acronym: KBBE
European Commission contact person: Alessio Vassarotti

Science in society significance

The KBBE concept will help move Europe closer to the world-beating knowledge-based society and economy it wishes to create. By enhancing the competitiveness of the EU’s biomass-based industries, the knowledge-based bio-economy will create new jobs and prosperity. The innovation it sparks will help deliver a wealth of new products that will boost consumer choice and help meet a spectrum of European citizens’ socio-economic needs. The new products it creates will help improve people’s health, enhance society’s environmental credentials and help Europe find a new road to sustainability.


  • Launch of KBBE website – mid-2005;
  • ‘The knowledge-based bio-economy: transforming life science knowledge into new, sustainable, eco-efficient products’ conference in Brussels – 15-16 September 2005;
  • Conference report – November 2005;
  • A network of senior government officials is being formed to pursue the further development of KBBE in Europe – ongoing.