Global Bioeconomy Summit

Speech by Dr Georg Schütte, State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Education and Research at the Opening Reception in Berlin

Georg Schütte während seiner Eröffnungsrede
Georg Schütte während seiner Eröffnungsrede © Stefan Zeitz

Mr von Braun,
Mr Bell,
Mr Koshla,
Your Excellences,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

We all share the common goal of combining economics and ecology – of shaping a sustainable bio-based economy which will ensure that our Earth is still a livable planet for generations to come.

This is a very ambitious aim and we will only succeed if we manage to effect a comprehensive transition with the support of the bioeconomy. I am convinced that research, development and innovation are the keys to success.

Germany is one of the world's most prosperous countries but at the same time it also leaves one of the biggest ecological footprints of all industrial countries. This needs to change! The bioeconomy is therefore becoming increasingly important for the Federal Government's innovation policy.

Germany was one of the first countries in the world to introduce a national research strategy on the bioeconomy. That was in 2010. Issues such as world nutrition, sustainable agricultural production or healthy food are of considerable importance, with global food security taking top priority. Another key focus is the development of biobased industrial production – for both energetic and non-energetic use.

Resource efficiency is one of the guiding principles of the bioeconomy: Cascade use and life cycle management ensure the best possible exploitation of raw materials.

One of the biggest challenges is that some of our existing industrial structures will have to be completely rejigged. In this context, our bioeconomy strategy is also placing a stronger focus on the innovative strength of small and medium-sized enterprises.

Another insight we in Germany have gained is that the bioeconomy needs coherent policies. In Germany, the bioeconomy is the responsibility of the entire Federal Government. Our High-Tech Strategy and our Sustainability Strategy make sure that this is the case.

We have worked with the ministries responsible for agriculture, economics, the environment and economic cooperation as well as with the Federal Foreign Office to provide a budget of 2.4 billion euros for R&D in the bioeconomy alone, over a period of six years. In addition, the National Policy Strategy Bioeconomy, which we introduced in 2013, has established a national regulatory and legislative framework. These measures show that the Federal Government is committed to a sustainable economy and to supporting biobased structural change.

Germany’s Bioeconomy Council has also been helping to improve the framework conditions for a biobased economy since 2009. I would like to sincerely thank both Chairpersons – you, Ms. Lang and you, Mr von Braun – as two of the 17 members of the Council for organizing this first Global Bioeconomy Summit. This world première would not have been possible without your initiative, your persistence and your powers of persuasion.

The Bioeconomy Council includes specialists in different fields and has become an important counsellor for us on the path to a sustainable future. The opinions and analyses of the Bioeconomy Council show that we have come a long way both nationally and internationally.

Governments in over 40 countries have already included the bioeconomy on their political agenda. Politicians and entrepreneurs throughout the world are focusing on green innovations, resource efficiency and sustainable life cycle management. Many of you here today can be proud of what you are doing.

But there is certainly still a lot to be done if we are to make full use of the great potential of the bioeconomy. Research and innovation as well as training and advanced training are essential in this context. For this we need a national and international political framework.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Imagine: over 800 participants from 82 countries from Albania to Uzbekistan – have come to Berlin to attend this summit. Also present are representatives of renowned international organizations such as the IEA, the FAO, the OECD, the European Commission and the BGCI. Their presence illustrates the relevance of our topic and the importance of this event. The Global Bioeconomy Summit is giving the bioeconomy its first international platform.

The summit offers a unique opportunity. In the course of the next two days, we will be able to formulate the first ever international bioeconomy agenda that transcends the limits of national policies. It is a question of merging and coordinating individual measures and national strategies on a global level. Regional and national objectives must be included in a common international bioeconomy policy.

I am convinced that the bioeconomy must be discussed at global level in the same way as international climate issues or questions of sustainability, which have been discussed within a UN framework for years now. I am eager to hear the recommendations you will be making to policy-makers in your reports.

Everyone involved – whether from Europe, Africa, America, Asia or Oceania – must be brought on board. This is the only way we can give the bioeconomy a significant say at global level. It is the only way that we can succeed in involving the bioeconomy in existing multilateral processes at the highest level. It is the only way that we can fully exploit the potential of the bioeconomy. And it is the only way that we can come closer to our joint vision of a sustainable future.

Richard von Weizsäcker, the former German President, who died this year, once said: "Let us do everything to ensure that we leave to the next generation, the children of today, a world that offers them not only the necessary space to live but also the environment that supports life and makes it worth living." 

On this note, I would like to give the starting signal for this important global dialogue on a sustainable bioeconomy. Let us work together to shape the future!