Knowledge for policy


The 2018 European Bioeconomy Strategy and further sectorial and horizontal policies are relevant for the bioeconomy


In the EU, the bioeconomy concept was introduced in the middle of the last decade. A bioeconomy strategy for the EU was published in 2012 and updated in 2018. The bioeconomy covers all sectors and systems that rely on biological resources (animals, plants, micro-organisms and derived biomass, including organic waste), their functions and principles. It includes and interlinks: land and marine ecosystems and the services they provide; all primary production sectors that use and produce biological resources (agriculture, forestry, fisheries and aquaculture); and all economic and industrial sectors that use biological resources and processes to produce food, feed, bio-based products, energy and services (except biomedicines and health biotechnology).


The 2018 update of the Bioeconomy Strategy aims to accelerate the deployment of a sustainable European bioeconomy so as to maximise its contribution towards the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as well as the Paris Agreement.

The update also responds to new European policy priorities, in particular the renewed Industrial Policy Strategy, the Circular Economy Action Plan and the Communication on Accelerating Clean Energy Innovation, all of which highlight the importance of a sustainable, circular bioeconomy to achieve their objectives.

The update proposes an action plan with 14 concrete measures to be launched in 2019, based on three key priorities:

  1. Strengthen and scale up the bio-based sectors, unlock investments and markets
  2. Deploy local bioeconomies rapidly across the whole of Europe
  3. Understand the ecological boundaries of the bioeconomy

Bioeconomy (or bioeconomy-related) strategies also exist or are being developed in many of the EU Member States (see below) and their regions (see Regional policies - Smart Specialisation). Bioeconomy strategies have also been established at international level (e.g. OECD bioeconomy agenda) and in many third countries (Source: German Bioeconomy Council and JRC research).

No specific EU bioeconomy legislation exists. However, sectorial legislation, which in many cases is considerably older than the bioeconomy concept, has major impact in the field.

The bioeconomy in different countries


The common agricultural policy (CAP) was first formulated in the Treaty of Rome in 1958. A strategic document has been developed under the Europe 2020 flagship initiatives. Reforms supported by the strategic document have taken place. The new CAP applies for the period 2014-2020.

The CAP is financed by two funds. They include several environmental measures:

1. European Agricultural Guarantee Fund (EAGF)

a) Direct payments to farmers

   Cross-compliance links direct payments to farmers to compliance with basic standards concerning
  • the environment
  • food safety
  • animal and plant health and animal welfare
  • as the requirement of maintaining land in good agricultural and environmental conditions.
   In order to receive green direct payments farmers need to adopt practices such as
  • diversify crops,
  • maintain permanent grassland, and
  • dedicate 5 % of arable land to ‘ecologically beneficial elements’ fallow land, hedges and trees).

b) Market measures

   Help to stabilise biomass prices through public intervention (e.g. buying in through the competent authorities of Member States and storage of products).

2. European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD)

   Finances so-called agri-environment-climate measures.

These measures affect the availability, prices and price stability of biomass and the environmental impact of bioeconomy value chains using agricultural raw materials.

Main legislation:


There is no common forestry policy for the EU. Forestry legislation is dealt with at Member State level. At EU level, the forest strategy defines general principles. The strategy is complemented by a multiannual implementation plan. Forest-related provisions are also included in legislation of related sectors, e.g. Birds and Habitats Directives and rural development sectors.


Fisheries, aquaculture and algae

The common fisheries policy (CFP) is a set of rules for managing European fishing fleets and for conserving fish stocks. It was first introduced in the 1970s and went through successive updates. Strategies on fisheries, marine and maritime growth and aquaculture intend to boost these sectors, for instance exploring increased use of algae as a source for biofuels, high added-value chemicals and bioactive compounds.

Reforms supported by the strategies mentioned above have taken place. The new CFP applies for the period 2014-2020.

Main policy areas of the CFP and relevant updates:

  • Fisheries management — Between 2015 and 2020, catch limits should be set that are sustainable and maintain fish stocks in the long term. The practice of throwing unwanted fish back into the sea was prohibited.
  • International policy — Regulates the operation of European fishing boats outside EU waters and the international trade in fisheries products.
  • Market organisation — Including marketing standards, consumer information, competition rules and marketing intelligence.
  • European Maritime and Fisheries Fund

These measures have, inter alia, an important impact on the availability and prices of fish as a feedstock for the bioeconomy.

Strategies: Main legislation:

Food and feed security

Food security is a main societal challenge. The bioeconomy strategy and action plan stresses the need to reconcile the competition of different sectors (food, feed and industrial uses) for biomass.

The EU defined food security as a strategic priority for EU development policy. A comprehensive policy framework has been adopted to promote food security and combat malnutrition.

There is currently no EU food and feed security legislation, i.e. on ensuring food availability and access, or nutrition security legislation.


Bio-based industries

Bio-based products are wholly or partly produced from biomass. They include products which were traditionally made from biomass, such as paper and textile. Product groups such as detergents, chemical building blocks and polymers, traditionally produced from fossil oil, are also increasingly based on biomass through novel value chains such as fermentation and biocatalysis.

There is no policy strategy or legislation specifically dedicated to the bio-based industry. However, bio-based products and industrial biotechnology have been identified as selected market and selected technology under the following initiatives.

Bio-based chemicals and materials have to comply with requirements for chemicals and materials in general, especially the regulatory framework for the management of chemicals (REACH, EU 2006). The European Chemicals Agency manages this integrated system for the registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of chemicals.

Strategies: Main legislation:

Other sectors using biomass

There are no specific EU policies and legislation in other sectors which traditionally use biomass, such as the textile, wood and wooden furniture and pulp and paper sectors. However, they are covered by cross-cutting initiatives and policies such as the raw material initiative, which emphasises the scarcity of biomass and the circular economy package. They are also subject to the more generally applicable legislation such as product safety standards and internal market legislation.


Climate change and energy

Starting in 2007, several strategic policy documents (see below) were introduced that promote the use of renewable energy (which includes bioenergy) and combat climate change.

The following objectives for 2020 have been defined:

  • to limit the global average temperature increase to less than 2 °C compared to pre-industrial levels;
  • to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 20 % compared to the 1990 levels;
  • to increase the share of renewable energy to 20 %;
  • to reach at least a share of 10 % of transport fuels coming from renewable sources;
  • to improve energy efficiency by 20 %.

These targets have been transposed in the following legal acts:

  • Emissions trading scheme (ETS) directive
  • Effort-sharing decision (ESD)
  • Renewable energy directive (RED)
  • Fuel quality directive (FQD)

A policy framework for climate and energy for the period from 2020 to 2030 defined the targets for 2030:
  • 40 % reduction of GHG emissions compared to 1990 levels;
  • at least 27 % share of renewable energy;
  • 27 % improvement in energy efficiency.

On 20 July 2016, the EC published a low-carbon economy package comprising:

On 30 November 2016, the Commission presented the clean energy transition package. The most important documents in the context of the bioeconomy are the following:

The EU has set itself a long-term goal of reducing GHG emissions by 80-95 % by 2050 compared to 1990 levels.

Main legislation:

Circular economy - Waste

The EU waste legislation includes the Waste Framework Directive (EU 2008) and many further legal acts regulating the shipments and the management of waste including incineration and landfills.

The Commission decided to move away from the linear economic model of ‘take-make-dispose’ which has proven to be unsustainable. The new circular economy approach aims to maintain the value of products and materials for as long as possible whilst minimising resource use and generation of waste. In December 2015 the EC adopted the circular economy package (EC 2015b), comprising

The circular economy package defines the following targets:

  • to increase the recycling target for municipal waste to 65 % by 2030;
  • to gradually limit the landfilling of municipal waste to 10 % by 2030.

The action plan acknowledges the potential of the bioeconomy to contribute to the circular economy by providing alternatives to fossil-based products and energy. The bioeconomy promotes the enhanced use of waste in existing value chains as well as the creation of innovative value chains using organic waste.

In 2017 the communication 'The role of waste-to-energy in the circular economy' was published. A strategy on Plastics in a Circular Economy (including action on marine litter) is also being prepared (see roadmap).

Strategies: Main legislation:

Regional policies - Smart specialisation

Under the ‘Research and innovation strategies for smart specialisation’ (RIS3), the design of national/regional research and innovation strategies for smart specialisation is encouraged. This should lead to an integrated approach towards smart growth in all regions.

The European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) consist of five main funds which support economic development across all EU countries.

The report 'Bioeconomy development in EU regions' provides a mapping of EU Member States’ / regions’ Research and Innovation plans & Strategies for Smart Specialisation (RIS3) on Bioeconomy.

Strategies: Main legislation:

Research and innovation

Research and innovation is at the heart of the flagship initiative ‘Innovation union’.

Funding for research is provided at EU, national and regional levels. Financial instruments for the implementation of the Europe 2020 strategy and the Juncker priorities are Horizon 2020 and the European Fund for Strategic Investment (EFSI) (EU 2015b).

For further information see Research and Innovation.


Further cross-cutting policies

Many other horizontal policies such as environmental (including water), industrial, trade or internal market policies also have an impact on the bioeconomy.