Spring time of 2019 will go into the European history books as the age of climate change awareness. With the massive protest movements, headed by famous but also some infamous names such as Swedish school pupil Greta Thunberg, policy makers around the globe start to once again push the envelope to avoid harmful effects of climate change. At the Austria Summit in May 2019 effects of global warming and climate change and its threats to public health, agriculture and economic growth amongst other important fields of life were discussed and what measures will be most successful if implemented.
Austria Summit bioeconomy breakout session
Events hosted by three ministries at once are seldom, which stresses the utter importance of the topic: Representatives of the Austrian Ministry of Education, Science and Research, the Austrian Ministry for Sustainability and Tourism and the Austrian Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology discussed how more innovation is urgently needed to stop the climate change threats and spoke highly of the promising concepts bioeconomy approaches show in this regard.
Thus, to feature bioeconomy more prominently the Austrian government together with experts set up an Austrian Bioeconomy Strategy:
“Austria is committed to the international climate targets and to a proactive climate protection and energy policy. The key objective is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Austria aims to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 36% compared to 2005 by the year 2030. For this purpose we need a coordinated, harmonised climate and energy policy which ensures a balance between environmental sustainability, competitiveness and security of supply also in the future. Therefore, it was decided to develop an integrated Climate and Energy Strategy to accept the responsibility for consistent decarbonisation efforts until 2015.“ (To read the full article go to: https://www.bmnt.gv.at/english/environment/Climateprotect/Austria-s-Bioeconomy-Strategy.html).
Along the line, several other approaches have been taken to foster the topic during these last years. Recently, six European universities worked together to launch the European Bioeconomy University. Amongst them is the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna (BOKU), who themselves also set up a new regional Center for Bioeconomy which has taken up work to establish more intersectional cooperations for bioeconomical research and innovations in May of this year.
Sustainability is key
Bioeconomy stands high on the EU Agenda. The Europe 2020 Strategy and the Updated 2018 Bioeconomy Strategy call for bioeconomy as a key element for smart and green growth and a sustainable use of resources in Europe. As stated in the strategy papers, in order to cope with an increasing global population, rapid depletion of many resources, increasing environmental pressures and climate change, Europe needs to radically change its approach to production, consumption, processing, storage, recycling and disposal of resources.
The main idea behind the bioeconomy concept is to use biological resources instead of fossil raw material. It combines research, innovation, technology, environment & economy. Bioeconomy takes an integrative multidisciplinary approach, it is a collaborative effort between different fields, using the know-how of technical and natural sciences with the goal to create innovation that has economic and environmental benefit.
Philippe Mengal, the Executive Director of The Biobased Industries Joint Undertaking (BBI-JU), was highlighting the potential of bioeconomy to tackle global challenges such as climate change and presented different projects working on biobased solutions. The following projects with RTDS lead and participation were presented by BBI-JU at the summit.
SUSBIND, SUSFERT and TECH4EFFECT projects
SUSBIND and SUSFERT implement bioeconomy approaches with partners from research on the one hand and large industry as well as small and medium enterprises (SMEs) on the other hand, thus covering the value chain. The SUSBIND consortium develops, produces and tests bio-based binders as an alternative to fossil-based binders currently used for wood-based panel boards in furniture. The goal of the project is to 1) substitute fossil-based chemicals with those from renewable resources and 2) to improve indoor air quality through reduced emissions from furniture and other wood-based panel board applications.
TECH4EFFECT focuses on a sustainable increase of access to wood resources through data and knowledge-based forest management. The project considers increasing efficiency in forest harvesting and collection, and the reduction of soil impact from forest operations, and puts forward ways of making this a measurable and integrated part of operational efficiency.
SUSFERT develops more sustainable, multifunctional fertilisers for phosphorus and iron supply fitting into existing fertiliser production processes and EU agricultural practice. It combines bio-based and biodegradable coatings for controlled release, probiotics to increase nutrient availability and the renewable phosphorous source struvite. SUSFERT demonstrates fertiliser efficacy for major crops, evaluates the economic potential and sustainability of the tested products, ensures regulatory compliance and finally prepares market entry.
Both SUSFERT and SUSBIND aim to reduce non-renewable components in the current production and replace them with renewable elements that will in turn lead to a sustainable, circular economy.
See a full list of speakers at the Austria Summit bioeconomy breakout session in the program: https://www.austrianworldsummit.com/images/pdf/Program_Break_Out_Session_Bioeconomy_web.pdf.
Download the Austrian Bioeconomy Strategy from: https://www.bmnt.gv.at/english/environment/Climateprotect/Austria-s-Bioeconomy-Strategy.html.