In view of scarce fossil natural resources, climate change and the growing world population, sustainability and climate action have become key issues of the 21st century. The objective of the bioeconomy is to combine economy and ecology to ensure a more sustainable use of biological resources. The German Federal Government has introduced a wealth of innovative initiatives to set the course towards a bioeconomy. These activities dovetail in the new National Bioeconomy Strategy which was published in January 2020. The achievement of a biobased economy will represent a significant contribution to the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals set out in the UN’s 2030 Agenda.
Combine economy and ecology
The objective of the bioeconomy is to combine economy and ecology to ensure a more sustainable use of resources. The German Federal Government defines the bioeconomy as the production, exploitation and use of biological resources, processes and systems to provide products, processes and services across all economic sectors within the framework of a future-oriented economy.
Innovations in the bioeconomy unite biological knowledge with technological solutions and utilise the inherent properties of biogenic raw materials such as their natural cycles, renewability and adaptability. The bioeconomy harbours the potential to provide new kinds of products and processes that protect natural resources and ensure our future prosperity.
In order to achieve sustainable economic growth, bioeconomy resorts to two fundamental principles: it is based on sustainably produced, renewable natural resources, and on bio-based innovations. A technically feasible and, at the same, more resource-efficient and bio-based structural transformation within industry is consequently not only imaginable, but also well capable of cost-efficient implementation. Alternatives to fossil raw materials, as well as the utilisation of renewable resources in industrial process engineering, new approaches are becoming apparent in our time. Solutions are necessary that combine economic growth with global responsibility for world nutrition and for the protection of our environment and climate as well as for animal welfare – and that allow a holistic perspective. To achieve this, structural change must take place throughout society that links economic growth and ecological compatibility.
Germany spearheading the bioeconomy
As a focal point for technology and research, Germany has set itself at the vanguard of this movement and occupies a leading international position. In 2010, it became one of the first countries to publish its National Research Strategy Bioeconomy 2030: a six-year strategy designed for the implementation across policy areas. The strategy accordingly set a specific course for biobased transformation of industry and society and was developed under the direction of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), together with six further ministries. From 2010 to 2016, €2.4 million was provided for research and development.
In its National Policy Strategy on Bioeconomy, enacted by the Federal Cabinet in 2013, the German Government set an additional milestone for a bio-based and sustainable economy. This strategy was prepared under the direction of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture for implementation across policy areas.
In January 2020 the German Federal Government published the new National Bioeconomy Strategy. The strategy lays down the guidelines and objectives for its policy on the bioeconomy and lists measures for their implementation. The strategy builds on the National Research Strategy ‘BioEconomy 2030’ and the National Policy Strategy on Bioeconomy to weave the various political strands together in a coherent framework. The National Bioeconomy Strategy lays the foundations for Germany to strengthen its role as a bioeconomy leader and to create the technology and jobs of tomorrow. With the strategy, the German Federal Government also assumes its global responsibility in the interconnected international bioeconomy.
Two overarching guidelines support the objectives and actions set out in the National Bioeconomy Strategy. The first guideline highlights how biological knowledge and advanced technology are the pillars of a future-oriented, sustainable and climate-neutral economy. The second guideline relates to the raw materials used by industry and the need for a sustainable and circular economy based on the use of biogenic resources.
What is the Bioeconomy Council?
In 2009, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection (BMELV) established the Bioeconomy Council as an independent advisory board to the German Federal Government. The central task of the council, whose expertise covers the full spectrum of the bioeconomy, is to search for ways and means for sustainable solutions, and to present their insights in a global context.
The Bioeconomy Council convened regularly to prepare position statements and expert advice, organise events on relevant issues, and promote the future vision of the bioeconomy to broader society. The activities of the council are orientated both towards long-term objectives as well as current policy requirements.
The Bioeconomy Council sat for its first working period between 2009-2012. The Federal Government appointed a new committee under the same name, which began work in autumn of 2012 and completed its work in summer 2019. As outlined in the National Bioeconomy strategy, the Bioeconomy Council will be succeded by a new body. The advisory board should cover as many perspectives on the bioeconomy as possible, and include experts from science and industry, as well as representatives of thematically relevant civil society organisations.
Global Bioeconomy Summit
The Global Bioeconomy Summit (GBS) has become established as a platform for exchange between international experts, even beyond research. Initiated by the Bioeconomy Council, mandated to run from 2012 to 2019, and funded by the German Federal Government, this high-level international conference has grown into an institution that provides important impulses for the further development and coordination of various bioeconomy approaches.
While the GBS2015 defined the bioeconomy holistically and as a strategy to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement, the GBS2018 focused on 14 key themes of global relevance for bioeconomy policy and highlighted opportunities for more intensified collaboration in macro-regions and globally. The third GBS2020 will take place fully virtual from 16 to 20 November 2020 with the support of the German government.