Bio-based industries are considered to be a key enabler of the green transition towards a resilient and environmentally sustainable EU economy. By replacing non-renewable fossil raw materials and mineral resources with bio-based products, they create value from renewable locally sourced feedstock, support more sustainable production processes and boost rural and coastal economies. The importance of this sector is highlighted in key policy documents, such as the EU Bioeconomy strategy and the European Green Deal.
Since 2014, the Bio-based Industries Joint Undertaking (BBI JU), a €3.7 billion partnership between the EU and the private sector, has supported the deployment of the sector in Europe by de-risking investments and fostering collaborations between the scientific community and industry. The partnership has so far funded over 120 projects expected to create by the end of the initiative in 2024 more than 200 new value chains – full production lines from raw material to final product application.
Circular Bio-based Europe: A new partnership for a higher impact
The European Commission has acknowledged the success of BBI JU and recently given the green light to its successor, the Circular Bio-based Europe Joint Undertaking (CBE JU) for the 2021-2031 period. CBE JU is projected to build on the achievements of BBI JU, while enlarging its scope to address the technologic, regulatory and market challenges of the bio-based sector that cannot be solved at a regional or national level.
What are these challenges?
First of all, the technological development is uneven across various industry’s sectors. In addition, more research is needed to make sure that the bio-based production processes have a clear positive impact on the biodiversity and the environment. Secondly, many regions with important amounts and variety of bio-mass do not use them to their full potential, and not all EU countries and regions have a strategy for the development of bioeconomy. Thirdly, due to the lack of awareness, market uptake is slow both on the consumer side and by traditional industries. Lastly, the availability of biomass is not always stable, and its price might be fluctuating. It is important to note that the EU has taken the firm decision to only use primary material sourced in Europe.
CBE JU will focus its activities on three main axes, with the aim to bring high-level solutions to the identified issues:
- Investing in R&I across scientific disciplines and along the full value chain. CBE JU will help boosting the research and innovation capacity in regions and industry sectors that are lagging behind but also support research to increase the sustainability of the production processes. In addition, CBE JU is expected to constantly measure the environmental and socio-economic impacts of its projects.
- Engaging with industry and policy stakeholders to raise awareness about the potential of the bio-based sector. CBE JU will involve primary producers and local authorities in its activities to encourage the circular use of biomass at the local level. The partnership will also promote the uptake of bio-based materials in the production processes of other industries. Engaging with civil society via consumer organisations and other forums is planned as well.
Placing sustainability and biodiversity at the heart of the initiative. To deliver on its objectives, CBE JU should only fund projects that are respecting principles of circularity, sustainability and planetary boundaries. Establishing a robust sustainability and biodiversity monitoring system for the funded projects will be one of CBE JU’s main objectives. The partnership will also involve biodiversity specialists in the decision-making process.
The entry into force of the regulation establishing CBE JU is planned for the end of 2021, after its adoption by the European Parliament and Council, and the first funding opportunities for the bio-based sector will open in early 2022 at the latest.
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