The European Bioeconomy: a more sustainable, more prosperous future
9 November 2015, Bioeconomy Investment Summit, Brussels
Carlos Moedas - Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation
Check Against Delivery

Ladies and gentlemen, good morning! It's a pleasure to welcome you all today and it's a pleasure to welcome Commissioner Hogan and George Freeman MP.

We're here today to learn from each other. We're here to discuss how investment can bring speed and scale to the European bioeconomy. We're here because of the bioeconomy's huge potential to:

  • Create employment − especially in rural and coastal areas;

  • Diversify Europe's energy sources − with low-carbon alternatives to fossil fuels and

  • Increase industry-driven GDP − by contributing to a circular, resource-efficient economy.

When I talk about the European bioeconomy, I'm taking about using our renewable, biological resources to produce food, materials and energy. I'm talking about business models with resource-efficiency and environmental sustainability at their core. I'm talking about investing in new industries and creating new jobs.

Today, you will hear a range of business cases from forestry to agriculture, from aquaculture to bio-based products, but none of these developments can have any impact without investment. We need the bioeconomy to go from being a niche to the norm.

So this morning, I want to point out that investment is what the next two days are all about. We're here to identify practical ways to encourage private and public sector investment in the bioeconomy, together. Commissioner Hogan, our fellow-Commissioners and I, are working together to create the right conditions for investments. We’re working to ensure that current and future EU policies are coherent, so that the European bioeconomy can succeed, but if I'm here today to call for investment, then it should first be clear why that investment is needed and what it will achieve!

My background is in engineering, so I like to think of the bioeconomy in terms of stocks and flows. The stock is the overall volume of biomass available from forests, to crops and the sea. The flows are their many uses in food, feed, energy and materials. We can greatly increase the stocks available to us through innovation.

First, we can use innovation to improve what we have, for example, by increasing yields with sustainable farming practices. Second, we can innovate to create things that are entirely new, like chemicals or energy from stocks like algae. And third, where biomass flows are concerned, we can tap into the value of things traditionally considered as waste. From the tonnes of food families and businesses throw away in Europe each year, to the industrial residues discarded, to the municipal waste of our growing cities.

Generating value from all these discarded flows will make the bioeconomy the green engine of a wider circular economy. A circular economy, in which all stocks have value at every stage of their life cycle.

Of course, there are already many talented and visionary people taking advantage of these opportunities all over Europe. Look at the growing number of biorefineries in Europe.

Take Scotland, for example. Where turning macroalgae, seaweed and industrial waste into high-value chemicals is already generating over 250 million euros for the Scottish economy. Or another region, Sardinia. Later today we will hear Catia Bastioli, talking about how Novamont has created sustainable agro-industrial chains in Sardinia. And in Ireland, there are many exciting developments. I'm very pleased to see that Siobhan Talbot from Glanbia is also here today. I visited Glanbia earlier this year with Commissioner Hogan. Glanbia is taking milk − a traditional bioproduct − and creating an array of amazing new products, such as high protein foods and new materials.

Today you're going to hear many inspiring stories like these. Stories that demonstrate how the bioeconomy can transform our traditional production and consumption patterns. Stories that illustrate how we can use European research and innovation to optimise or create new production processes. Stories that show how bio-based solutions can be fully compatible with food security: enabling us to meet our ambitious renewable energy and CO2 reduction targets.

We can do so much more than simply produce, use and throw away.

It's wonderful to see that the Commission's hugely ambitious Investment Plan is already making tangible progress. The new European Fund for Strategic Investment is already having an impact: making new financing opportunities available to bioeconomy projects with high risk profiles; helping innovative projects get off the ground, while removing risk and uncertainty from private investors.

I am extremely pleased to see that Ilka Hamala from Metsa Fibre will be talking to you later today. Metsa received one of the first investments from the new European Fund for Strategic Investments. An investment to construct a next-generation bioproduct mill in Finland. It is expected to create some 6000 jobs during its construction phase and sustain another estimated 2500 jobs in the forestry sector upon completion. It is one of the largest industrial investments ever undertaken in Finland and Europe needs many more projects and investments like this one.

My vision for a European bioeconomy is one that: finds new commercial and competitive uses for our natural resources; develops innovative, resource-efficient industrial processes and leads to the creation of entirely new, environmentally sustainable markets.

Through the bioeconomy we can work together across Europe, and with our global partners, to prove that sustainability is the best business case of all!

My fellow Commissioners and I will be doing our part to ensure that there is coherence in EU policy across the board - from forestry and fisheries, to energy and climate change policies, to industrial and environmental policies. The Circular Economy package will be a natural first step, but our focus on the EU regulatory environment will continue.

Our European bioeconomy will benefit from EU policy support and public funding opportunities. It will progress through European research and innovation, but it can only grow, from a niche to a norm, with additional private investment. I would like to see not just one bioeconomy project financed by the European Fund for Strategic Investment. I would like to see a whole pipeline of projects!

Everyone has their part to play. This will require nothing less than the awakening of every part of society. A vibrant European bioeconomy must be designed by a diversity of people and organisations, like those of you represented here today. It must come from truly open science and open innovation and its success will be dependent on: the uptake of bioeconomy strategies in EU member states; regional Smart Specialisation Strategies; the right regulatory environment and on the long-term commitment and engagement of private investors, producers and consumers.

Ladies and gentlemen, I have organised this summit together with Commissioner Hogan, because we want to focus on what can be done to unlock further public and private sector investment and private investment in particular, is the surest way to build momentum on the epic road to realising our bioeconomy ambitions for Europe.

We are looking forward to hearing your practical proposals for very real and immediate progress. We're looking forward to working with you for a more sustainable, more prosperous future.

Trying something new on this scale takes great effort, but our efforts will be rewarded. I leave you with the words:

"If you always do what you always did, you'll always get what you always got."