The bio-based products sector, found to represent a staggering €57 billion in annual revenue and involve over 300,000 jobs, is set to explode in the coming years and working groups have been mapping out a path for the development and implications of a revolutionary surge in the bioeconomy.
This month, the Public Procurement Working Group of the European Commission’s Expert Group for Bio-based Products published the definitive 15 recommendations for bio-based business in 2016.
The newly launched report is crucial to anyone in the bio-based and sustainability value-chain and has wider ramifications for global markets seeking growth in the uptake in public procurement programmes for bio-based products. The findings outlined exclusively in this report are must-read material.
Building a picture of bio-based products
On 12 April 2016, the Public Procurement Working Group of the European Commission’s Expert Group for Bio-based Products published its new report on the increased uptake of bio-based products in public procurement programs.
Comprised of 34 carefully appointed senior members representing EU countries and state agencies, public procurers, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), academia, and businesses, this formidable group explored the implications of a growing bioeconomy.
The report, launched at a recent stakeholder conference in Brussels, states that benefits of a bio-based market are reciprocal to the entire products industry, highlighting the important role of bio-based goods in future markets.
Based on its findings, representatives from the EU Commission have declared the bio-based products sector to be a high priority area with marked potential for future growth, reindustrialisation, and addressing societal challenges.
Each of the 15 recommendations is driven by the overarching principle of transitioning to an ever-more sustainable and circular economy. Industry bodies seeking to implement the recommendations at regional, national and European levels will test their implementation strategies in line with this guiding principle.
So what are the 15 recommendations?
Each individual recommendation was chosen and driven by the overarching principle of transitioning to an ever more sustainable economy.
The potential of bio-based
Bio-based products are a vital means by which to make the economy more sustainable and lower the unsustainble global dependence on fossil fuels.
Bio-based products can be popularly understood as follows; 'Products that are wholly or partly derived from materials of biological origin, excluding materials embedded in geological formations and/or fossilised.'
The Expert Group identified several key areas for action to help grow such a large and diverse sector, acknowledging that it will take time and effort to make a significant impact compared to established traditional fossil-based products.
The intended audience for these recommendations are public procurers, economic development agencies, environmental organisations, circular bioeconomy stakeholders and policy makers at regional, national and European level.
Implementation and investment decisions for the recommendations will now be tested moving forwards against this sustainability principle. Complementary interests such as regional economic strategies, industrial investment, rural livelihoods, innovation ecosystems, political strategies, citizen well-being are also essential additional drivers to the initiative.
Recurring themes of the report concerning bio-based products are:
- Monitoring and supporting the development of the policy framework, and the implementation of the priority recommendations.
- Proposing demand-side industrial policy actions conducive to the market uptake of bio-based products and processes, such as standardisation, public procurement, awareness raising, and labelling best practices.
- Mapping of bio-based products and relevant bioeconomy related activities and exchanging of good practices at regional, national, international, and EU-level aimed at increasing the competitiveness of European industry.
This particular sector was identified as a 'lead market' as a result of its potential to offer significant benefits to European society, in terms of innovative job creation, using renewable and alternative resources to damaging fossil carbon, on top of stimulating rural development as a whole.
The convincing potential for bio-based growth in future years was identified as a game-changing factor in the context of a wider global market.
Impact on the bioeconomy
Peter Schintlmeister, Life Science Expert at the Federal Ministry of Science, Research and Economy, Austria & Chair of the Expert Group underlined the impact of the report:
“Public procurers get access to greener, more sustainable and fossil free products while the bio-economy gets a boost by way of access to a market accounting for nearly 20% of all purchases in the EU”.
Importantly, the report indicates that the bio-based share of all chemical sales will rise to 22% by 2020, with an incredible compounded annual growth rate of close to 20%, bringing the existing €57 billion in annual revenue into the spotlight for future industry growth. Benefits to international bio-based markets are as such predicted to be monumental, making 2016 the year for soaring sustainable product processes and brands.
A major defining characteristic of the bioeconomy is that its resources are harvested from ecosystems that have multiple functions which are essential for humans and nature. Management of the cradle of these resources, such as forests, agricultural lands or oceans, is a crucial condition if the industry can ensure that the term ‘bio-based’ is fundamentally associated with a product’s sustainability footprint.
Permanent Coordination Initiative
Driving uptake of bio-based products in public and innovation procurement programs will, above all, require smart integrated and agile management approaches over a prolonged period of time, something that researchers are mindful of in planning the roll-out of bio-based innovations into popular markets.
Short term organisational approaches such as joint task forces or multi-stakeholder associations are recommended in the interim period while longer term permanent coordination solutions are steadily and firmly established.
Arguably, in this context, recommendation number 15 is the most important and strategic long term objective of all;
"Permanent Coordination Initiative"
As a result of the bioeconomy's complexity, the group advises to continue to implement the other recommendations (1-14) that are achievable in the short term, while equally leveraging the existing initiatives to prepare for the long term incorporation of bio-based products into the European economy.
The working group emphasises that progress in 2016 will be only the starting gun for the long-standing development of this definitive project.
These 15 critical recommendations can be consider the "what" of bio-based product guidelines, laying down the foundations of the "how" for future bioeconomy growth which will focus on identifying and initiating specific measures, instruments and resources for implementation of these important recommendations.
Promotional campaigns targeting specific materials, regions and sectors, the roll-out of standards and labels, benchmarking and goal setting, plus manifesto definition, targeted outreach and general communication, technical support to procurers, as well as intervention on legislation if and where possible will be the key on-going themes in growing bio-based future markets.
To drive forward the implementation of these recommendations in the spirit of entrepreneurialism, confidence and ambition, the Expert Group report concludes that it would be necessary to find the resources for a continuous and dedicated coordination.
This, without a doubt, is a challenge that the bio-based industry is more than prepared to take on as sustainable innovations and economic growth rates are set to soar in 2016.
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