“It is the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.”
So said Charles Darwin, someone who knew a little about scientific developments that moved from niche to mainstream but also understood acutely the value of partnership. And it’s these two tenets, innovation and collaboration that are essential in ensuring the continued development and growth of the bio-based economy. There has never a been a more prescient time for bio-based to bloom, as the demands for sustainable products and a more circular economy grow, the industry matures and expands but also those denying the effects of a fossil-fuel driven climate shrink further in numbers and credibility. The alignment of these factors present a huge economic opportunity for Europe and today, in a special feature, our Editor Luke Upton spends some time with an organisation doing more than anyone to drive the continent’s position as a global leader - the Bio-Based Industries Joint Undertaking (BBI JU) and speaks exclusively to Philippe Mengal their Executive Director about their rapid development and plans for the future.
The BBI JU was founded in 2014, with the aim of acting as a catalyst for the development of a bio-based European economy and is a €3.7 billion Public-Private Partnership between the European Union and the Bio-based Industries Consortium. Their mission is to contribute to a more sustainable, low-carbon economy in Europe and increase economic growth and employment, in particular rural areas and with a particular focus on advanced bio-refineries that source their biomass sustainably.
Philippe Mengal (pictured left) tells me more about their raison d'être; "The old economic model built on fossil fuels is outdated. As a continent, we need to move towards a circular model with all the benefits this offers. Through our ambitious programme we are supporting bio-based economic growth to boost employment by focusing on three key areas: aiding the demonstration and deployment of novel technologies to enable new bio-based chemicals, building blocks, materials and consumer products to commercial level; developing value chain is linking biomass production through to B2B and B2C in the market; and setting up flagship bio-refineries that show that bio-based can offer cost, performance, societal and environmental advantages to outperform current fossil-based alternatives.”
In 2014 when the BBI JU ( @BBI2020) was launched, the bio-based industries already employed 3.3 million people in Europe, and that number is set to grow by 400,000 by 2020 – 80% of which will be in rural areas On top of that, the exploitation of crops like thistles, dandelions and flax will allow farmers across Europe to diversify and grow their income, as well as boost the development of local economies.
In speaking to Philippe it is fascinating to learn of the breadth and variety of the projects with which the BBI JU is engaged. And Bio-Based World News is fortunate to be able to profile four of the over the coming weeks. What is particularly positive about their work is that it focuses on supporting economies in parts of Europe that have been economically neglected, or suffered due to post-industrialisation and for whom bio-based can offer a route to revitalisation.
Just one example of a BBI JU project focused on creating additional jobs in rural areas, is Dendromass4Europe (D4EU) which aims at establishing sustainable, Short-Rotation Coppice (SRC)-based, regional cropping systems for agricultural dendromass - a ligneous biomass used as a raw material and energy source, but without the quality required for traditional high-level uses, such as furniture.
This project is focused on the establishment and expansion of 2,500 hectares of dendromass crops on marginal or currently unused agricultural land in rural areas of the Slovak Republic, Hungary and possibly the Czech Republic and helping large numbers of farmers and rural land owners that will directly benefit from the diversification and increase of revenues through their involvement in D4EU. Made possible with a BBI JU contribution of €9.8million, this five year project began in June of this year.
With D4EU just one 65 projects in 30 countries underway across Europe, and BBI JU well considered by its project co-ordinators and wider industry experts , I ask Philippe where he sees BBI JU beyond 2020 when it’s current remit ends.
“Since our establishment, BBI JU has become an important pillar of Europe’s bio-economy strategy and must continue to bring together and integrate different sectors and entire value chains, mobilising the relevant stakeholders, ranging from SMEs to large companies, from resource and technology providers to brand owners and finally consumers. The sector has improved a lot in term of structuration, organisation and maturity. But full maturity is not fully reached yet and a second generation of BBI JU is still needed. Investment is one of the major challenges to growing the bio-economy, and although Europe is back on the map of attractive areas to invest in bio-based industries, but still not fully perceived as non-risky for investment. This position should be consolidated and as a result continuity is key here in order to reap the full benefits of the overall initiative. We look forward to continuing our work in 2020 and beyond.”
If you would like to find out about how your project could be supported by BBI JU, they launch annual Calls for Proposals, and this is open to all stakeholders – large industries, SMEs, technology providers, academia, RTOS. The process is operated under Horizon 2020 rules and thus on the principles of Openness, Transparency and Excellence. In other words, everyone can participate and the best proposals – evaluated by independent experts – will win.
And should working with the BBI JU be something of interest, and I suspect for many of you it will be, then there is an event next month that serves as a perfect introduction to not just their work but also some of the wider issues, opportunities and challenges around the European bio-economy. The BBI JU Stakeholder Forum 2017 (Brussels, December 7th 2017) will feature a comprehensive programme of inspiring keynotes, parallel sessions, networking sessions and project exhibition. Their 65 ongoing projects will present work so far and Philippe and his team will ensure that by bringing projects together in one venue with other BBI JU stakeholders, it will facilitate an exchange of ideas and best practises. Speakers already include senior representatives from Avantium, the European Commission, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Royal DSM, Lego, H&M and many more. Registration is now open and tickets are free, so don’t delay and register today.
For more on BBI JU visit: www.bbi-europe.eu
For more on the BBI JU Stakeholder Forum 2017 and to register for free visit: https://stakeholderforum.bbi.europa.eu/ or click the banner below.
You may also be interested in...