IHS Chemical Week

CHEM IDEAS

There's More to the Bioeconomy than Research

6:22 AM MST | February 15, 2012 | By KATHRYN SHERIDAN

The European Commission published its long-awaited strategy on the bio-based economy, or bioeconomy on Monday.  The Strategy for 'Innovating for Sustainable Growth: A Bioeconomy for Europe' talks about how to shift the European economy towards a more sustainable use of renewable resources.  For chemical or plastics companies in the bio-based sector or those looking to branch out into using renewable feedstocks, this strategy is good news as it mobilises the political thought process to put a focus on bio-based.  But in reality, how can this strategy help chemical companies?
 
The idea of a shift to more sustainable resource use is not a new one at EU level. The EU 2020 policy, a major policy statement, talks about green growth and resource-efficiency so this is a good follow-up paper. In fact, anything which helps give political credibility to the bio-based sector can't do any harm.  It remains to be seen if this strategy will grow legs to offer concrete measures which will help industries, for example to help start-ups break into the bio-based sector or propose support measures to the Member States to help keep these companies in Europe as they grow.  As it stands, a political strategy is just that, a statement of intent which may follow up with actual measures.  But it's a positive sign.
 
What does seem a little hinky is that the initiative is being driven by the Commission's research and innovation service, not by industry or agriculture or environment.  This does seem a little incongruous although the Commissioner for research is a wonderfully feisty Irishwoman not afraid to bang heads together.  It may be that her touch is exactly what is needed.

Europe is already pushing major initiatives in the research and innovation sectors like the Innovation Partnerships and the Horizon 2020 initiative.  But there's more to the bioeconomy than research or even innovation.  This industry is here in Europe already with amazing technology and IP, creating jobs and giving hope to the rural economy.  The strategy itself says that this industry already represents 9% of European workforce.  It seems to be including farming, fisheries and forestry - the classic bio-industries - in this.  It is up to the chemical industry now to grab this opportunity and make sure that the policymakers realise that the chemical industry and renewable chemicals have a significant role to play in creating a cleaner future for Europe.












 
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