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EXCLUSIVE: European bio-based sector sets out 2050 vision for a circular bio-society.

“In this circular bio-society, informed citizens choose more sustainable means to live and acknowledge and benefit from a bioeconomic societal model.”

Bio-based industry heavyweights have set out their circular bioeconomy visions for 2050 in a new report led by the Bio-based Industries Consortium (BIC). The report noted, among other things, that there was a need to bridge the skills gap between educational institutions and the bioeconomy sector.

The report, exclusively seen by Bio Market Insights and published by the BIC (@biconsortium) with input from a number of other EU bioeconomy stakeholders, sets out a vision that focuses on four key drivers. This includes plans for fostering food security, meeting a growing population’s demand for sustainable products and looking at how the sector can contribute to a sustainable planet. It also includes a vision for creating jobs and achieving a circular bioeconomic society.

“In this circular bio-society, informed citizens choose more sustainable means to live and acknowledge and benefit from a bioeconomic societal model,” the report’s executive summary stated.

Under the umbrella of contributing to a sustainable planet, the bio-based industry has outlined plans to stimulate the growth of eco-designed bio-based products which are recyclable or compostable. This plan aims to prevent pollution and littering of the biosphere, and will help to contribute to three UN sustainable development goals (SDGs).

The EU bio-based industry also hopes its strategy will help to create more jobs and promote economic growth. For example, the bio-based industry aims to expand bio-based activities across Europe, providing new or additional income for actors in sectors such as agriculture, food, and forestry. It also aims to enable brand owners to lead the conversion to bio-based applications by informing citizens and increasing their awareness of bio-based alternatives.

In relation to achieving a circular bioeconomic society, the bio-based industry envisions a scenario where an innovation infrastructure with interlinked R&D centres is built in order to help facilitate exchange of expertise across Europe.

Bridging the skills gap

Industry stakeholders also hope to bridge the skills gap between EU universities and the bio-based industry. Under its 2050 vision plans, the bioeconomy industry hopes to standardise the bioeconomy curricula across Europe.

Nelo Emerencia, programming director at BIC, told Bio Market Insights: “The bio-based industry is engaging in dialogue with educational institutions on a European level to align industry’s needs for skills and competences with education and training. Our objective is to arrive at curricula for the different sub-sectors and levels that will be valued equally across Europe and accepted in all member states.

“Therefore, we’re not out to make everything identical, but curricula and diplomas should meet standards that are mutually accepted by education and industry across Europe.”

Emerencia added that the bioeconomy industry needed to lead and specific its “needs for the future”, otherwise he warned that there would be a “plethora of ‘bio-based’ curricula and diplomas driven by academia and universities alone.

He explained: “These may not respond to our evolving needs. There is already a gap between our needs and existing curricula. Entrants in the market often do not have the profile/educational baggage that we need. The bio-based industry across Europe will promote careers that need and welcome graduates with new/adequate diplomas.

“We will specify our needs on all levels: vocational, applied university and research university levels.

“We need to move fast for the vocational levels in particular, since we may run into a shortage of the skills needed at this level soon.”

Elsewhere, the report also highlights the need for Europe to adopt a food system that operates on principles of circularity. This will see the return of “necessary ingredients to the soil to increase soil carbon content and avoid depletion”. Under the plans, biodiversity will be enhanced.

All in all, the report maintained that a circular bio-society would be achieved by EU citizens adopting a sustainable way of life, which will help to make an active contribution to help achieve 12 of the UN’s SDGS and reduce society’s dependence on fossil resources.

BIC is a non-profit organisation set up in Brussels in 2013. BIC represents the private sector in a Public-Private Partnership with the European Commission, also known as the Bio-based Industries Joint Undertaking (BBI JU).

Other contributors to the 2050 vision report include the European Bioeconomy Alliance (EUBA) and its members, the Confederation of European Forest Owners (CEPF), the Confederation of European Paper Industries (CEPI), the European Association for Bioindustries (EuropaBio), the European Association of Sugar Manufacturers (CEFS), the European Bioplastics (EUBP), the European Farmers and European Agri-Cooperatives (Copa-Cogeca), and European Renewable Ethanol Producers Association (ePURE) among others.

If you were interested in reading about this circular economy story, you may also be interested in the below stories.

Read: Canada and Italy promote national bioeconomy strategies.

Read: Bio-based industry gives lukewarm response to UK’s first bio-economy strategy.

Read: Bioeconomy will help to bring jobs to EU’s rural areas and keep the bloc ‘politically balanced’, Dutch MEP says.

Read: European Commission launches ‘Circular Plastics Alliance’ to help create ‘well-functioning market’ for recycled plastics.

Take part:  Bio Market Insights reader survey 2019.

Read: 5 Minutes With… Sally-Anne Kasner from Circular Vision.

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