Bio-based booster shot for north-west Europe
The transition to a sustainable, bio-based economy is one of the major challenges facing Europe today. Thanks to the right balance of financial, technological and political support, north-west Europe is shaping up as the go-to hub for bio-based business development. And SMEs are the biggest beneficiary of the efforts of the EU-funded Bio Base NWE project.
" The project sends a clear message to European innovators that a shared state-of-the-art pilot facility, in combination with an easily accessible voucher system, empowers SMEs to turn research into investments and jobs. "
In a bio-based economy, biomass replaces non-renewable resources used for fuel, energy and materials that go into manufactured goods. Moving away from fossil fuels is a huge opportunity for sustainable ‘green’ growth based on innovation, but it takes a concerted, long-term investment to achieve.
The EU-funded Bio Base NWE project provided the long-term vision and support needed to establish north-west Europe as a leader in the bio-based economy. It acted as a change agent, providing financial, technological, training, networking and political support, especially to SMEs active in the sector.
Bringing together experts from eight organisations in five different countries, the project provided networking opportunities and tech-based solutions to over 755 SMEs. It identified the hurdles they encounter when innovating and translated these into policy recommendations shared with regional and European policy-makers.
The project developed a robust programme of training tools, processes and actions to build the capacity and skills needed to propel north-west Europe into the bio-age. One innovative action, a Coupon Scheme, gave a financial kick-start to start-ups (34 in total) testing innovative industrial biotechnologies at the dedicated Bio Base Europe Pilot Plant.
This expert-staffed facility, with a wide variety of state-of-the-art equipment “bridges the so-called valley of death between the laboratory and successful market introduction that comes with high technological and financial risk”, according to the project team. Skills and know-how of professionals in bio-based process industries were boosted with specific training tools (developed by the project) and in a summer school.
In 2014, the Scottish SME Celtic Renewables used a Bio Base NWE Innovation Coupon at the Bio Base Pilot Plant to test a new process for producing biobutanol from whisky manufacturing by-products. On the back of these tests, the company secured its next round of investment worth EUR 1.5 million. The following year it landed a £11 million (EUR 12.57 million) grant after winning a competition run by the UK Department for Transport to build the world’s first plant producing advanced biofuel from whisky residues.
Bio Base Europe has really delivered tangible results, including four novel bio-based products commercialised during the project, prompting significant interest from investors and customers. Some 16 SMEs reported plans to build new product lines or develop current ones – with a total investment of around EUR 71 million. Altogether, 43 new jobs were created and an estimated 275 new posts are expected in the future.
Total investment and EU funding
Total investment for the project “Bio Base NWE” is EUR 6 149 175, with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributing EUR 3 074 587 through the “North West Europe (NWE)” for the 2007-2013 programming period.