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Bioeconomy Innovation Day in Brussels: Enhancing dialogue between European bioeconomy stakeholders

The Bioeconomy Innovation Day in Brussels offered valuable insights on what is needed to enable bioeconomy innovations in Europe.


The Bioeconomy Innovation Day: Advancing Resource Efficiency and Value Creation in Europe was organised as a joint effort of the European Polysaccharide Network of Excellence (EPNOE Association), Swedish research collaboration platform Treesearch, FinnCERES materials bioeconomy Flagship from Finland, and the B2BE Facilitator, a matchmaker in the Flemish bioeconomy between farmers and the industry. The event, organized at the Marriott Hotel Brussels Grand Place, brought together nearly a hundred stakeholders including innovators, industry representatives, policymakers, researchers, and funding agencies.

 

The aim of the event was to highlight the importance of bioeconomy in fostering resource efficiency, resilience, and value creation across Europe. In particular, the event showcased how bioeconomy can advance green transition and offered fresh insights into cutting-edge circular bio-based innovations.


Antonio Pantaleo from European Innovation Council opened the first session of the event, Innovation & Value Creation in Europe, by giving an overview of EIC’s main funding instruments and emerging research trends in sustainability and nature-based materials. Next, Nicola Francesco Dotti presented Science Europe’s recent report on how to promote science-informed policymaking, especially focusing on green and digital transition policies. Jim Philp from OECD offered his insights on main barriers in bioeconomy and stated that public financing should be designed to maximize chances of success to reach our jointly agreed goals. Aleksanteri Tuomainen from Taaleri Bioindustry concluded the session by giving an investor’s view on what makes a bioeconomy company investable. He emphasized that while venture capital cleantech investments have their challenges in risk and return profiles, there are currently several drivers creating investment opportunities.


The second session, Strategies to advancing resource efficiency and green transition in Europe, was inaugurated by Adrian Leip, Bioeconomy Head of Sector at European Commission, DG Research & Innovation. He highlighted the central priorities of the EU Bioeconomy Strategy, including strengthening the bio-based sector, deploying local bioeconomies, and understanding the ecological boundaries in a holistic manner. Tatu Torniainen from Sitra continued the session by highlighting the importance of abiding by the ecological boundaries. He emphasized that the major challenges including climate change, biodiversity loss, resource insufficiency, and growing pollution are all interlinked and need to be considered when developing new solutions. Integrating circularity in bioeconomy was presented as an important step towards building new, sustainable value. The session ended with a presentation delivered by Eva Schillinger from the European Chemical Industry Council, introducing the Advanced Materials 2030 Initiative, a multi-sectorial accelerator for the design, development, and uptake of safe and sustainable advanced materials towards a circular economy. The initiative has already gathered over 450 organizations, and is actively contributing to the Innovative Materials for EU (IM4EU), a new European Partnership candidate, proposed by the European Commission.


The third session consisted of presentations from the organizers. Pedro Fardim from EPNOE Association highlighted the recently published EPNOE’s Research Roadmap 2040 and the central role of polysaccharide-based materials in contributing to achieving the five goals of the EU Bioeconomy Strategy and climate neutrality by 2050. Next, Tekla Tammelin and Jussi Manninen presented the FinnCERES Flagship, a Finnish research programme on advanced bio-based materials. They showcased a few examples of research-based innovations and put a spotlight on the importance of R&D policies that enable moving from research to industrial production, supportive regulatory landscape as well as the need for sufficient funding for the whole innovation chain. Daniel Söderberg followed up with presenting Treesearch, the Swedish platform for collaboration on the research on materials from the forest. Treesearch strives for further developing current industrial products as well as for ground-breaking research towards new advanced materials. Jasmine Versyck concluded the session and presented the B2BE Facilitator as well as several case examples of their matchmaking efforts to boost the Flemish bioeconomy.

 

The fourth session of the event showcased recent high-quality efforts and developments by the industry. Katariina Kemppainen from Metsä Spring presented ExpandFibre, a 50 M€ R&D collaboration and an Ecosystem focusing on upgrading pulp fibre, hemicellulose and lignin from renewable and sustainable sources of straw and northern wood into new bioproducts. Harry Raaijmakers from Cosun showcased their biorefinery concept of sugar beet pulp developed in the PULP2VALUE project to the demonstration scale. Ronny Vercauteren from Cargill presented their Bioindustrial product portfolio across the markets, from adhesives and performance chemicals to bio-based plastics and personal care products. Stefaan De Wildeman from B4Plastics, a fast-growing bioplastics company, showed their recently developed non-persistent bioplastics with controlled degradation rates. Laura Tirkkonen-Rajasalo from Sulapac presented their bio-based materials that can replace conventional plastics in various applications such as packaging. She further emphasized the need for regulatory support to strive for minimizing permanent plastic and microplastic pollution, where the Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR) is in a crucial role. Mats Qvarford from Tetra Pak pointed out the importance of R&D collaboration in their ambition towards the world’s most sustainable food packages, which should be made from responsibly sourced renewable or recycled materials as well as be fully recyclable and carbon neutral. Last, Katja Richter from Heppe Medical Chitosan highlighted chitosan as a versatile, non-toxic, and biodegradable raw material for the pharmaceutical industry and research purposes.


Examples of items in the bioinnovation exhibition.


The event concluded with an exhibition of nearly 30 novel industrial products and research prototypes ranging from bio-based chemicals to textiles as well as various packaging products.

The organizers wish to thank all participants for their active involvement in the event!



Photos by Miriam Topo, EPNOE Association

Text by event organization committee



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