This was the Bioeconomy Forum 2023
On 4 and 5 December, round about 250 stakeholders from science, business, politics, and administration followed the invitation of the German Bioeconomy Council. The forum aimed to discuss the Council's recommendations for action, especially for the implementation of the national bioeconomy strategy (NBÖS). The participants also discussed ways to better accompany the rapid transformation of the economy and society.
On the first day, Federal Research Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger and Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck opened the event. Stark-Watzinger highlighted that the Federal Ministry of Education and Research is one of many bioeconomy locations in the country, and her ministry's task is to promote this future field. Vice Chancellor Habeck stressed the need to design the framework conditions to advance the bioeconomy quickly, for example, through circular economy and the implementation of cascade use. Adequate financial support is necessary to transition away from fossil fuels quickly.
At the start of the event, three young representatives addressed their demands and visions for the future of the bioeconomy, aiming to create a world worth living in for future generations. It is important to involve young people in shaping the future from today on.
The Bioeconomy Council focussed on four main topics. The topic of "upscaling" was a recurring theme throughout the presentations and discussions.
Pursuing the goal of a fully circular economy
One of the most important prerequisites for a circular economy is to carry out a valid inventory of the available biomass and to introduce a knowledge-based standardised assessment basis - such as a life cycle analysis (LCA) - on a mandatory basis. The ultimate goal is to eliminate the use of fossil raw materials. Additionally, existing processes must be quickly scaled up to an industrial level to drive the sustainable transformation.
"To achieve true sustainability, processes must be regenerative and restorative in the long term, and people must once again see themselves as part of nature," emphasised Joachim Böttcher from ricion AG.
Expanding biotechnology for the bioeconomy
The potential of new and innovative foods should be utilised more extensively. Sabine Kulling (MRI) suggests that changing diets, avoiding food competition with livestock, and utilising a variety of technologies are key levers for feeding over 8 million people.
Additionally, cultured meat and proteins from precision fermentation have the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by over 90 per cent. Furthermore, gaseous CO2 can be used to produce various industrial products, thus expanding the carbon cycle. Microbial fermentation and catalytic conversion are both viable methods for achieving this goal.
The Bioeconomy Forum's second day commenced with an opening speech by Federal Minister of Food and Agriculture, Cem Özdemir. For him and his ministry, the “food-first” principle is paramount and must be consistently applied while considering planetary boundaries.
The use of renewable raw materials must go hand in hand with socio-ecological improvements. He also stressed the importance of taking biodiversity and ecosystems into account. Bioeconomy has the responsibility of promoting the well-being of farmers, the environment, and the climate, while also preserving the natural ressources for future generations.
Diversification of land management for a transformation
In order to ensure sustainable land use in the future, it is important to diversify land management. Farmers have trialled and implemented agroforestry systems and agrivoltaics on their farms as examples of such diversification.
The panel discussion revealed that achieving sustainable land and area utilisation is not a simple or straightforward process due to conflicting goals between the various utilisation requirements. Evaluation and adaptation of various approaches is necessary depending on the region and area. Furthermore, standardised specifications for a life cycle assessment are required for bio-based innovations to ensure comparability and identify the best option.
Understanding sufficiency as an opportunity
Sufficiency and innovation are by no means irreconcilable opposites. Both are necessary for the transition to a sustainable, ecological, and socially fair bioeconomy. The concept of sufficiency can also provide new freedoms and is an essential component of a desirable future. In addition to regulatory measures, it is crucial to involve all stakeholders and civil society in the upcoming transformation and to develop a shared positive vision.
The event programme included ample breaks that networking and personal exchange. Additionally, a poster exhibition showcased the bioeconomy activities of the federal states.
The term of the third Bioeconomy Council ends in December 2023
After three years of intensive work, the term of the third German Bioeconomy Council is coming to an end. The chairpersons Daniela Thrän and Iris Lewandowski take stock of the challenging work. Much has been achieved - but of course the work is not finished. Work on implementing a sustainable bioeconomy must continue at full speed in the future.
Their visions and wishes for the future:
- Involve young people much more in decision-making bodies
- Faster upscaling of bioeconomic processes
Accelerate: Think in terms of possibilities, utilise opportunities, remove barriers
Using resources wisely, recognising sufficiency as an opportunity
Copyright: Bernd Lammel/bundesfoto