The EU recently held a forum for the bio-based industries – a multi-billion-euro industry that continues to grow.
The European Union is looking to stimulate investment in the bioeconomy. John Bell, director of bioeconomy at the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Research and Innovation announced plans to launch a new fund by the end of 2018, which will include at least €100 million in EU subsidies. “Take this fund as a market signal: the bioeconomy is happening, it’s taking root, and we want Europe to be a leader. We’re ready to let the innovators loose,” he said.
The new fund aims to strengthen an already flourishing industry: the European bio-based industries (BBI), which employ 18.6 million people across the bloc. The sector has risen from €2 billion in 2014 to € 5 billion in 2017 – and went through an 11% growth in 2016. But there still is plenty of potential to be tapped. It can indeed provide solutions to many of the challenges facing the EU, including environmental sustainability, climate action and the strengthening of rural jobs.
New markets for agricultural and forestry products that are used in bio-based materials could reportedly create around 700,000 jobs by 2030, 80 percent of them in rural areas. During the forum for the bio-based industries (BBI), which took place in Brussels on 7 December, Philippe Mengal, Executive Director of the Bio-Based Industries Joint Undertaking (BBI JU), didn’t hide his enthusiasm: “It is a remarkable evolution, further illustrated by the fact that we are currently noticing a growing interest from banks and private investors, even from outside the EU.”
The public-private initiative he heads was launched in 2014, within the EU’s Bioeconomy Strategy and Horizon 2020 framework. It aims at creating a competitive and sustainable bio-based industry sector in Europe. In 2017, halfway through the programme, an independent evaluation by the European Commission confirmed that the BBI JU is on the right track: it fulfilled the predefined KPIs, achieved high levels of effectiveness, implementation and transparency, and enjoyed a 97% satisfaction rate from participating coordinators.
“The potential impact of bio-based industries is clear for everyone to see”, explains Philippe Mengal. “People just need to know about it. I always like to make the comparison with the Stone Age: The Stone Age did not end because there were no more stones, but because there was something better. With bio-based industries, it is exactly the same: we are building a bio-based industry that is better for Europe and its citizens.”