Thursday, 23 March 2017 11:50

Spotlight on Policy Area Bioeconomy: for sustainable change

Written by  Torfi Jóhannesson
Innovative consumer products made from fish skin. Innovative consumer products made from fish skin. Photo: The Green Exchange

Bioeconomy consists of the management of renewable biological resources and their conversion into food, livestock feed, bio-based products and bioenergy. It involves tackling major challenges, both now and in the future. Bioeconomy is one of the cornerstones for the Baltic Sea Region economies. The region is extremely rich of forest biomass, has strong agricultural sector and the blue bioeconomy is well developed. The region, as a net biomass producer, can realize a great opportunity by focusing on increasing the value of products and services throughout the value chain.

The Priority Area for Bioeconomy for EUSBSR is working according to a strategy set by BSR bioeconomy stakeholders for 2015-2018. The strategy identified 5 grand challenges for developing the bioeconomy in the BSR:

  1. Policies and policy coherence.
  2. Private sector engagement.
  3. Research, Technology and Innovation.
  4. Civil society.
  5. Communication.

PA-Bioeconomy has worked along these 5 themes, to bring along sustainable change in the Baltic Sea Region.

  1. Policies and policy coherence

The activities on policies have centered on the work of the BSR Bioeconomy Council. The council is an informal policy dialogue platform composed of members representing all the BSR countries, who are actively involved in bioeconomy policy making in the BSR. The Council has met on three occasions – last time in Riga on March 8 2017. The theme for the most recent meeting was Sustainability Criteria for Bioeconomy and potential synergies with FAO were explored. They have been working on global guidelines for the sustainable bioeconomy. The Danish think tank Sustainia presented a prototype for criteria for the sustainable and innovative bioeconomy and facilitated a workshop where the links between a sustainable bioeconomy, the UN Sustainable Development Goals, sustainability criteria and the Paris Agreement on climate change were explored.


The criteria are explained in more detail in the new Nordic Council of Ministers publication “Nordic Bioeconomy - 25 Cases for Sustainable Change”.

The BSR Bioeconomy Council has proved to be a valuable forum to reach the goals of policy coherence in the Baltic Sea Region and will continue to be one of the most important activities of PA-Bioeconomy. Next meeting of the Council is scheduled in the end of October 2017 in Tallinn.

  1. Private sector engagement

Strong private sector engagement is crucial for the development of the bioeconomy. The BSR has a very strong company base in the bioeconomy, be it agriculture, forestry or fisheries. Also, the processing industry is innovative and fast growing. PA-Bioeconomy engages with the private sector through “Regional business dialogs”, where we gather local businesses, local policy makers and cluster facilitators for 1-2 days workshops. These meetings have proved valuable as to yield input into other activities as well as to contribute to the adaption of regional smart specialization strategies. The next regional business dialog will be organized in cooperation with the BSR Stars S3 project on Smart specialization in Kalundborg, Denmark and Helsingborg Sweden.

  1. Research, Technology and Innovation

Research technology and innovation are key enablers to unlock the potential of the bioeconomy. There is a need for efforts that: improve the overview of leading knowledge and research institutions and their respective areas of excellence within the bioeconomy; investigate opportunities for smart specialization through shared use of hard and soft test and demonstration infrastructures; and encourage university-business linkages.

  1. Civil society

One of the best ways to drive the conversion on sustainable bioeconomy is to engage the civil society – the consumer – the public. To do this, we have put the spotlight on consumer products in many of our events. A good example was the focus on sustainable textiles – some of them from the BSR forests – at the 7th Annual Strategy Forum in Stockholm 2016. Have a look at this article to learn more about our workshops at the 7th Annual Forum.

Another way of engaging with civil society is to go through the special events called Democratic Festivals (folkemøder), now widespread in the BSR. In the summer 2017 PA-Bioeconomy, in collaboration with the NCM local offices in Tallinn and Riga, is planning special events at the Democratic Festivals in Lampa in Latvia and the Arvamus festival in Estonia.

  1. Communication

And we communicate, because without communication nothing happens. We have established a special homepage for the PA-Bioeconomy where we spread the news, we write blogs, news, tweets and we participate in numerous workshops and conferences.  This blog is a part of these endeavours and we wholeheartedly put our efforts behind the slogan “Let’s communicate!”

The bioeconomy is gaining ground in the Baltic Sea Region, as well as in the rest of the world. More and more countries are developing their national bioeconomy strategies and the Nordic countries are even starting the work on a common Nordic bioeconomy strategy. And it doesn’t require a very imaginative mind to wonder if the on-going work of the BSR Bioeconomy Council could lead to common strategy guidelines for the Baltic Sea Region. Guidelines which could help us save the sea, increase prosperity and connect the region. At the same time there is a sense of urgency regarding the bioeconomy. We have all the building blocks  and many fantastic efforts for a sustainable bioeconomy in the Baltic Sea Region, but the world is moving at a fast pace and we cannot allow ourselves to be left behind.

“The times are a’changin’” wrote the 2016 Nobel laurate. Bioeconomy offers one of the paths towards a sustainable change in the Baltic Sea Region. We just have to have the courage to follow this path – and we have to do it together.

More information about PA-Bioeconomy's work:

Torfi Jóhannesson
EUSBSR Policy Area Bioeconomy Coordinator
Nordic Council of Ministers

Spotlight blog series introduces the concrete work done by the Policy Areas and Horizontal Actions of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region.

Read 5396 times Last modified on Monday, 08 May 2017 10:32