Toolkit for bioeconomy blueprints
Green, bio-based industries could drive smart new growth in Europe's regions. An EU-funded project has developed assessment and guidance tools to help regions design strategies to boost entrepreneurship and investment in local bioeconomies.
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The bioeconomy uses renewable biological resources plants, animals or microorganisms to produce goods ranging from food to industrial materials and chemicals. It is a growing sector, meeting demand for secure, low-carbon fuel and for new fossil-fuel-free products in various industries, and is the focus of a dedicated European Commission strategy launched in 2012.
To help public authorities develop strategies to ensure their regions achieve their full potential in this sector, the BERST project has developed an online bioeconomy toolkit. The toolkit provides local bioeconomy profiles, examples of good collaboration between businesses, researchers and public policy-makers, and an online forum for stakeholders and governments to develop local bioeconomies together, led by entrepreneurs understanding of what is commercially realistic.
All regions can be regarded as potential bioregions, says project coordinator Myrna van Leeuwen of Wageningen University and Research Centre. There is no good or bad starting situation, she adds. What matters is that stakeholders make the most of a regions strengths whether in terms of resources, knowledge or available finance while taking into account its challenges.
BERSTs toolkit allows users to identify strengths and weaknesses for 200 NUTS regions in the European Union (NUTS is the EU classification of territorial units for statistics) by generating a quick-scan bioeconomy factsheet the regions bioeconomy profile. Regions from eight countries are involved in the project Belgium, Finland, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Spain and the United Kingdom.
The factsheet compares a regions performance for bioeconomy criteria to its countrys performance, and goes on to assess the regions potential in typical bio-industries. Criteria go beyond natural resources; they also cover bioeconomy drivers such as education resources, research and innovation potential, population, infrastructure and financial support services. The toolkit shows where to add effort or possibly partner with other regions, says van Leeuwen.
To further guide bioeconomy strategies, factsheets include links to instruments and measures that either support bio-based industries in that region or impose requirements on them, drawn from the toolkits database of over 800 instruments and measures.
For seven large regions studied in depth, the toolkit adds a detailed report on bioeconomy strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT). Factsheets for other regions include a guide for designing users own regional SWOT analysis and bio-industry strategy.
These factsheets simply identify strategy starting points. Stakeholders add in their local knowledge to decide on the measures to implement, such as joint private-public undertakings or funding to expand SME production plants.
To spark ideas, the toolkit provides 11 regional bioeconomy case studies and four examples of good practice in bioclusters groups of research institutes, regional authorities and businesses aiming to build up local bio-industry. And BERSTs online forum has helped other stakeholders learn from and support each other across sectors and regions.
Quick scans have already been used to develop a bioeconomy strategy report for the province of South Holland in the Netherlands, says van Leeuwen. She adds that other scans have been incorporated into regional meetings held in Spain, Greece, the Netherlands and Germany to raise awareness of the toolkit and build stakeholder collaboration.
The toolkit is freely available on the project website, which will be maintained until at least December 2017. BERST hopes to then provide its data and tools to the EU Bioeconomy Observatory for further use. BERST shows how regional bioeconomy development can contribute to the competitiveness and cohesion of regions in Europe, says van Leeuwen. We learned a lot and the regional partners found the end result very useful.