Networking and partnerships needed to develop bioeconomy in Europe's regions

An international conference held in Espoo on Friday, 3 June brought together leading figures and stakeholders in the bioeconomy from Finland and across Europe. Organised as part of the Knowledge Exchange Platform (KEP), the event was hosted by Markku Markkula, the president of the European Committee of the Regions.

The Knowledge Exchange Platform is a joint venture by the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) and the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Research and Innovation, whose aim is to step up the dissemination of the latest research, and to pass on to the EU institutions information about the research, innovation and investment needs of cities and regions. The seminar held at Aalto University was attended by CoR members, representatives of other European institutions and bio-economy stakeholders from the worlds of science and business. The programme also included a visit to the VTT Bioruukki, which is the largest bio-economy research and piloting facility in the Nordic countries.

“Our aim is to help cities and regions make active use of the latest knowledge in the field of bioeconomy and to encourage them to develop partnerships with research institutes and business. Cooperation and networking provide the basis and critical mass needed for research and innovation activities. This is a two-way process which will benefit all parties and help bind local innovation ecosystems more closely”, said CoR president Markku Markkula.

The minister for agriculture and the environment Kimmo Tiilikainen pointed out that the bioeconomy was one of the Finnish government’s priorities. He called on the EU to review its bioeconomy strategy. “The EU’s current strategy places too much emphasis on agriculture and does not take sufficient account of the possibilities afforded by the forest-based bioeconomy, including renewable materials, chemicals and energy’, Mr Tiilikainen said.

“The bioeconomy and, more broadly, the circular economy should be an increasingly integrated part of the overall economic picture”, said MEP Heidi Hautala, who participated in a panel discussion. “In addition, the European Fund for Strategic Investments should be geared more towards supporting the bio- and circular economy. Implementation of the Fund requires more qualitative criteria, so that investments can support a sustainable future.”

The European Parliament’s rapporteur for the circular economy Sirpa Pietikäinen pointed out that sustainability criteria were also required in the bioeconomy, referring for example to the use of palm oil. “We are currently using the equivalent of around 1.5 planet’s worth of natural resources. We should adopt a completely new mindset, in which resource efficiency takes priority. Cities and regions can help investors make the right choices,” said Ms Pietikäinen.