Research on bioeconomy not only deals with the diverse organisms on earth. Scientists also combine the newly gained understanding of biological processes and the latest technologies to create groundbreaking innovations for a bio-based economy. However, the transition to a bioeconomy means a profound change for society. Therefore, the new national bioeconomy strategy also includes social, political and economic research.
The government of the Federal Republic of Germany defines the bioeconomy as the production, exploitation and use of biological resources, processes and systems to provide products, processes and services across all economic sectors within the framework of a future-oriented economy. The bioeconomy harbours the potential to provide sustainable solutions in order to protect resources and ensure our prosperity.
Joining forces for the bioeconomy
In its national bioeconomy strategy, the Federal Government lays down the guidelines and objectives for its policy on the bioeconomy and lists measures for their implementation. The strategy builds on the ‘National Research Strategy Bioeconomy 2030’ [Nationale Forschungsstrategie BioÖkonomie 2030] and the ‘National Policy Strategy Bioeconomy’ [Nationale Politikstrategie Bioökonomie] to weave the various political strands together within a single coherent framework. The new strategy is designed to substantially support sustainable development. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals provide an important framework. By 2030, these will demand sufficient food, health and well-being, affordable and clean energy, decent work, economic growth, responsible consumption and production and climate action, inter alia. All of these goals are addressed in the new bioeconomy strategy.
Guidelines of the new bioeconomy strategy
The new bioeconomy strategy provides the conditions to develop the full potential of the bioeconomy for Germany to strengthen its role as a bioeconomy leader and to create the technology and jobs of tomorrow. Two overarching guidelines support the objectives and actions set out in the national bioeconomy strategy.
The first guideline highlights how biological knowledge and advanced technology are the pillars of a future-oriented, sustainable and climate-neutral economy. Novel, bio-based production systems can, for example, supply tailored ingredients for industry. Optimised microorganisms or individual components such as enzymes deliver new raw materials or products. To this end, science aims at better understanding how biological systems work and interact with one another – from the fundamental molecular principles to the complex interplay in ecosystems. Bioeconomy research is designed to translate this knowledge into real-life applications. Bioeconomy is integrative and combines interdisciplinary research and systemic solutions. Findings in life sciences are converging with other branches of science and technologies.
The second guideline relates to the raw materials used by industry and the need for a sustainable economy based on biogenic resources. The focus is on biomass as a renewable raw material. It can consist of plants, microorganisms, algae or fungi, for example. Today, the focus is also increasingly on bio-based residues and waste materials. Sustainable production and an efficient, cycle-oriented use of biogenic raw materials are essential. It is also important to preserve the fertility of the soil and biodiversity, and not to pollute the environment, including the water. Biogenic resources can replace much more than just fossil raw materials. With their help, completely new products are created, such as nutritional supplements for improved baby food, new composite materials for building houses or car bodies, or optimized crops that are robust and productive.
The Federal Government’s strategy on the bioeconomy addresses a broad spectrum of objectives at different levels of society and across all economic sectors. It can be summarised in six common strategic goals:
1) Develop bioeconomy solutions for the sustainability agenda
2) Recognise and harness the potential of the bioeconomy within ecological boundaries
3) Enhance and apply biological knowledge
4) Provide a sustainable raw material base for industry
5) Promote Germany as the leading location for innovation in the bioeconomy
6) Involve society in the bioeconomy and intensify national and international collaboration