SEDEC Commission adopts opinions on bioeconomy and STEM education  

Developing sustainable bioeconomy strategies in EU regions and strengthening science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education were on the agenda of the CoR's Commission for Social Policy, Education, Employment, Research and Culture (SEDEC) on 2 April. Members also discussed how cities and regions can contribute to the UN's Sustainable Development Goals related to social policy, education and innovation.

The European Commission presented in October 2018 a new strategy to develop sustainable bioeconomy in Europe, which is the subject of a draft opinion prepared by Jacint Horváth (HU/PES), representative of Local Government of Nagykanizsa. The CoR document encourages cities and regions to develop their own bioeconomy strategies. Moreover, it underlines the need to address regional disparities and calls for cross-border, inter-regional and macro-regional cooperation and coordination, since the development of bioeconomy is more effective when it follows ecological rather than administrative borders.

"Successful implementation of the EU's bioeconomy strategy requires the involvement of cities and regions, as well as NGOs, researchers and businesses at local and regional level. By 2024, we would like all EU regions to have either their own bioeconomy strategy or part of their regional smart specialisation strategy devoted to this field", said rapporteur Horváth.

Through an own-initiative opinion drafted by Csaba Borboly (RO/EPP), President of Harghita County Council, the SEDEC commission is calling for measures to promote STE(A)M (science, technology, engineering, (arts) and mathematics) education in Europe. Borboly's opinion urges the European Commission and the Member States to support STEM-related initiatives at local and regional level, to ensure necessary investment and to tackle shortages in this field in the planning of cohesion policy.

"STEM subjects form the basis for an innovation-based economy and are drivers for growth and jobs. However, there is a European wide of shortage of teachers specialised in STEM and the results of the education systems are not always in line with the needs of the labour market. It is also crucial to close the gender gap, as the proportion of women in STEM education and jobs remains low", rapporteur Borboly stressed.

The interlinkage between education, social policy and innovation was also pointed out by Themis Christophidou, the European Commission Director-General for Education and Culture, during a debate on the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) related to the fields mentioned above. The CoR is currently preparing two opinions related to the SDGs with the contribution of all of its six thematic commissions.

ECON commission rapporteur Arnoldas Abramavičius (LT/EPP), Deputy Mayor of Zarasai, said: "Cities and regions are instrumental in conveying the territorial dimension of SDGs on the ground. We need an overarching strategy that will go beyond the five-year political cycles of the EU institutions, address all issues simultaneously and ensure a reciprocal dialogue between these institutions, Member States, local and regional authorities, businesses and  civil society."

The draft opinions by Horváth, Borboly and Abramavičius will all be adopted at the CoR plenary session on 26-27 June.