The European bio sector experienced an 11 percent growth in 2016 with 5 billion euros of planned industry investment as well as several hundreds of thousands of extra jobs, many of them in rural areas. With this in mind, the Bio-Based Industries Joint Undertaking (BBI JU) has gathered policy makers, researchers, industry leaders and SMEs as well as farmers and primary producers, at their Stakeholder Forum in Brussels today (7th December), to discuss what has been achieved so far and to look forward, identify the remaining challenges and plan for the future.
BBI JU was created in 2014 within the EU’s Bioeconomy Strategy and Horizon 2020 framework as a 3.7 billion euro public-private partnership aimed at creating a competitive and sustainable bio-based industry sector in Europe, with 975 million euros coming from the EU and the remaining 2.7 billion euros coming from industry. It is now aiming to plan for the future by continuing its structuring and mobilising efforts, creating new markets for bio-based products and enabling the development of a circular and sustainable bio-based European economy, without challenging food production and respecting biodiversity and land use.
The main challenges to this vision include maintaining continuity and stability, fully de-risking investment, a higher level of self-sufficiency in terms of biomass supply and a longer-term commitment of industry, policy makers, thought leaders, brand owners and retailers, needed to fully embed the infrastructure a bio-based economy requires. This will take time. However, the biggest challenge of all, it seems, is a shift in conscience.
“It is a remarkable evolution” said Philippe Mengal, Executive Director of the BBI JU, “further illustrated by the fact that we are currently noticing a growing interest from banks and private investors, even from outside the EU. Most of all, it is proof that, through the 65 projects we are funding in 30 countries, the BBI JU is creating unique opportunities for public and private organisations to cooperate, develop their knowledge and establish cross-sector connections to find new ways of valorising Europe’s biomass potential. Effectively, the figures show that BBI JU is successful in organising, structuring as well as shaping new value chains, de-risking private investment and reaching the critical mass needed to create value for Europe and its citizens.”
In 2017, halfway through the programme, an independent evaluation by the European Commission confirms that the BBI JU is on the right track, not just fulfilling the predefined KPIs but achieving high levels of effectiveness, implementation and transparency, an impressive 36 percent SME participation rate and a 97 percent satisfaction rate from participating coordinators.
This is corroborated by the latest figures produced by Europe’s bio-based industries: not only has the BBI JU target of 5 operational biorefineries by 2020 already been exceeded, on top of that the sector has seen an 11 percent growth in 2016, and the investment planned by Bio-based Industries Consortium members has risen from 2 billion euros in 2014 to 5 billion euros in 2017.
“The potential impact of bio-based is clear for everyone to see” added Philippe Mengal. “People just need to know about it. I always like to make the comparison with the Stone Age: The Stone Age did not end because there were no more stones, but because there was something better. With bio-based industries, it is exactly the same: we are building a bio-based industry that is better for Europe and its citizens, accelerating the shift towards the post-petroleum era.”
The BBI JU is a public-private partnership (PPP) and is part of the EU’s plan to move its economy to a post-petroleum era. It aims to help make the EU’s economy more resource-efficient and sustainable, while supporting growth and employment. The BBI JU mission is to help achieve the European bioeconomy potential by turning biological residues and wastes (from agro-food, forestry and municipal sources) into greener everyday products, through innovative technologies and biorefineries.