Clearly, when three ministries send out invites to discuss a topic with numerous stakeholders, said topic must be on the top of every agenda. On November 7th 2018 the event “Bioeconomy: sustainable and closed loop recycling oriented. The European Way towards a crude oil free society”* headed by Austrian Minister Elisabeth Köstringer (Federal Ministry of Sustainability and Tourism) together with the Austrian Federal Ministry of Transport, Innovation and Technology as well as the Austrian Ministry of Education, Science and Research took place. Hosted by the Eco-Social Forum 150 guests from industry, research and other stakeholders came together for an inspiring afternoon at Vienna’s Albert Hall.
Economic and environmental challenges to overcome
After Minister Köstringers welcome words, Waldemar Kütt (European Commission, Head of Unit DG RTD F1 Bioeconomy Strategy) and guest speaker Sara Tasa of the Finnish Ministry of Economy Affairs and Employment addressed the challenges that lie ahead of European economy and markets when natural resources start to dwindle. Daniel Barben (German Bioeconomy Council) and Michael Staudinger (director of the Austrian Meteorology and Geology Research Institution) followed suit with their unique insights from two different fields of expertise. The event hosted students from a Viennese economy school (BHAK Wien 10) who posed challenging questions to the podium, one being: which higher education students should pursue in order to work in the bioeconomy field. The podium agreed this was a multidisciplinary field that offers a range of professional directions from chemistry, biology, engineering to forestry, marketing or communication science.
Representing the two bioeconomy projects SUSFERT and SUSBIND, RTDS Group CEO Dr. Stephen Webb, joined the exclusive podium to discuss various aspects of bioeconomy together with Rudolf Freihager (Austrian Federal Forests), Bernhard Egert (engineer of the wooden skyscraper ‘HoHo’), Holger Gerdes (‘ecologic Institut’ EU) and Jürgen Schneider (Austrian Federal Ministry of Sustainability and Tourism, Section Climate).
Picture 1: Podium with experts on European bioeconomy (© RTDS Group, A. Babić)
Chances provided by the bioeconomic approach
“Bioeconomy has definitely reached all sectors, be it industry or research! Everybody is aware that we need to work on heading some swift changes in Europe if we want to stand a chance economically and ecologically as well” states Webb. The key to “green and smart growth” in Europe are bioeconomy projects such as SUSFERT and SUSBIND that utilize sustainable resources and even build up novel bio-degradable products and completely new circular economy sectors.
The greatest advancement bioeconomy can give lies within its huge potential for creating thousands of “green jobs”. In times of concern for a massive loss of jobs by changes following the digitalization of many industry and service sectors, bioeconomy jobs could be the solution we are all looking for.
Picture 2: Natascha Miljković (RTDS Group) informing audience on SUSFERT and SUSBIND, two new bioeconomy projects funded by BBI-JU (© RTDS Group, A. Babić)
What can YOU do for bioeconomy?
The question remains – how can Europe implement bioeconomy into the existing sectors? The EU Horizon2020 research projects and European Bioeconomy Strategy spearheaded an unprecedented boost of new knowledge and knowhow on bioeconomy for economy and ecology. Besides more funding, more political commitment needs to be granted to put to use this new knowledge swiftly.
One is to examine and pass several pending EU regulations, such as the fertiliser regulations (relevant for the SUSFERT project) or a formaldehyde ban (relevant for the SUSBIND project) faster. Another example is to make the “Ecolabel” for ecologically produced European products compulsory so customers can make more educated decisions when buying goods. “Customers are willing to pay more for greener products! They are aware of these topics, they know what is at stake. Give them more relevant information and let them act accordingly” Webb appeals to the podium.
Unanimously, the podium agreed wholeheartedly – industry, politics, research, retailers and media have to work hand in hand to better educate end empower citizens to enable real change towards fostering bioeconomy in Austria and the EU.
* Original title: “Bioökonomie: nachhaltig und kreislauforientiert. Der europäische Weg in eine erdölfreie Gesellschaft“