In 2012, the EU published its Bioeconomy Strategy, with the
express intention of paving “the way to a more innovative, resource efficient
and competitive society that reconciles food security with the sustainable use
of biotic renewable resources for industrial purposes, while ensuring
In the first Bioeconomy Strategy released in 2012, five main
objectives were identified:
- Ensuring food and nutrition security.
- Managing natural resources sustainably.
- Reducing dependence on non-renewable, unsustainable resources whether sourced domestically or from aboard.
- Mitigating and adapting to climate change.
- Strengthening European competitiveness and creating jobs.
These objectives were to be achieved through three broad
actions: through investing in research and innovation, increasing engagement
with stakeholders, and enhancing market competitiveness. In 2017, a review of
the strategy was published, which found that the original objectives of the
Strategy still held today, and that the Strategy had “substantially delivered”,
promoting the development of local bioeconomy and national bioeconomy
strategies and policies, as well as mobilising research and innovation funding.
Funding for the bioeconomy has greatly increased, resulting in many research
breakthroughs, although there remains much work ahead to translate these
developments into marketable products. There has also been policy uptake among
member states, with many of the EU’s oldest members implementing their own
bioeconomy strategies, although the EU’s “younger” members are lagging behind
Despite these successes, the 2017 review identified multiple
issues with the original Strategy:
- A lack of correspondence between the objectives and the actions meant to achieve them.
- A lack of monitoring and assessment framework limited the potential outputs.
- The broad and abundant actions and sub actions lead to a lack of focus.
- Policy coherence and synergies could have been higher.
- Policy context has changed since 2012 therefore the Strategy is no longer as relevant.
Following the review, areas of further development were
- Further mobilisation of investments, including funding from the private sector.
- Increased predictability of the regulatory environment to facilitate further investments.
- Increased coherence among relevant EU policies.
- Increased involvement of Member States, regions and cities.
- Inclusion of fewer, focused actions to deliver on a circular bioeconomy.
- Better monitoring of progress of the bioeconomy as a whole and of the Strategy itself, including appropriate indicators.
- Updated alignment to recent EU and global policy development.
It was identified that the actions of the Bioeconomy
Strategy needed to be re-focused in order to achieve the five original
objectives, and an update to the Bioeconomy Strategy was released in 2018. One
of the major criticisms of the original Strategy – a lack of measurable targets
– has been addressed, with each proposed action being accompanied by indicators
The new strategy aims to scale-up Europe’s biobased markets,
by facilitating access to investment, both from the private and public sector,
as well as identifying regulatory barriers to biobased development, and
promoting biobased standards, in order to ensure consumers are better informed,
and can have confidence in what they are buying.
There is also significant focus on promoting the bioeconomy
at the local scale, aimed primarily at agriculture and forestry, both of which
underpin the bioeconomy through provision of feedstocks. With this in mind,
there is also a commitment to further understanding the ecological impacts of
the bioeconomy, in order to account for the environmental impacts created by
industry, including those in the bioeconomy. This goes hand-in-hand with the
strategy’s other pledge to foster increased biodiversity, acknowledging that
diverse ecosystems provide greater function. As far as agriculture and forestry
are concerned, the focus is on increasing soil microbe diversity, and mitigating
decline in pollinator populations.
Despite not introducing sweeping changes, this update to the
Bioeconomy Strategy is exactly what was needed: a re-focus. The old adage
states that if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it, and the original Strategy’s goals
were exactly what they needed to be. The principle issue has been solved: the
lack of a way to measure the Strategy’s successes. With the addition of defined
targets, this will allow progress in the European bioeconomy to be quantified. It
is now in the hands of the stakeholders to put the Strategy into practice and
deliver a world-leading bioeconomy in Europe.