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Biobased industry in Europe – Strategic innovation and research

This Strategic Innovation and Research Agenda, or SIRA, sets out the main technological and innovation challenges to developing sustainable and competitive bio-based industries in Europe. It reflects the industries’ vision of a competitive, innovative and sustainable Europe leading the transition towards a bioeconomy.

The SIRA identifies research, demonstration and deployment activities to be carried out by the Joint Technology Initiative on Bio-based industries, or BBI Initiative. This public-private partnership between the European Commission and the Bio-based Industries Consortium (BIC), aims to invest € 3.7 billion in bio-based innovation between 2014 and 2020. The BBI Joint Undertaking established by the Council Regulation (EU) No 560/2014 of 6 May 2014 will implement this initiative.

Important for project creators

The SIRA is the basis for road mapping towards the BBI JU calls for proposals. The new version already applies to the BBI JU 2017 call whose deadline for submission of proposals is 7 September. Therefore, it is a compulsory reading for all the actors that are involved in the preparation of partnerships and proposals. Also, it will determine the topics and strategies for the calls to come until 2020.

Why are bio-based industries important?

Dynamic and sustainable bio-based industries in Europe can deliver many environmental, economic and social benefits according to the SIRA document.

  • Bio-based industries are hugely important to Europe. The European bioeconomy taking in the food, feed, beverage and primary sectors, has an annual turnover of € 2.1 trillion. Bio-based industries (relevant chemicals, plastics, pharmaceuticals, paper and paper products, forest-based industries, textile sector, biofuels and bioenergy) account for € 600 billion of this total. Moreover, the European bioeconomy provides jobs for 18.3 million Europeans, over half of them in primary biomass production (agriculture, forestry and fisheries). Bio-based industries employ 3.2 million people1.
  • Industrial biotechnology – an important pillar of the bio-based industries – provides almost half a million jobs in the EU and over € 31 billion in added value. By 2030 it may account for between 900 000 and 1.5 million jobs and € 57 to 99 billion in added value2.
  • Bio-based industries make use of European biomass sources and sustainable European supply chains. As such, they lower our dependency on imports and contribute to our raw material security. With 90 % of Europe’s chemical industry feedstocks for non-energy use coming from fossil resources3, access to alternatives such as biomass (including bio- waste) or CO2 is an important strategic issue.
  • ▫  Bio-based industries can create opportunities for local regeneration in rural and coastal areas, fostering cooperation between the different stakeholders along the value chain. For example, trade unions in Denmark have estimated that realising the country’s biomass potential could create 23 700 jobs, of which nearly four in five would be in rural districts. Bio-based industries can also provide farmers with new sources of income4.
  • ▫  Bio-based industries are important players in building the European circular economy. They are pioneering the processes to produce added-value products from feedstocks such as agricultural residues, urban bio-waste, side streams from food processing, and industrial emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG), including CO2.
  • ▫  By replacing fossil-based products with bio-based products, which tend to have a smaller carbon footprint, bio-based industries can make a critical contribution to Europe’s climate goals5.At the heart of this Agenda are the bio-based value chains and their composing pillars that form  the four strategic orientations of the bio-based industry in Europe.
  • foster supply of sustainable biomass feedstock to feed both existing and new value chains;
  • optimise efficient processing for integrated biorefineries through research, development and innovation (R&D&I);
  • develop innovative bio-based products for identified market applications; and
  • create and accelerate the market-uptake of bio-based products and applications.

This Agenda extends beyond the original, by explicitly incorporating new feedstock such as aquatic-based sources, bio-waste and CO2. In addition, it more actively pursues the crossover between ‘traditional’ value chains. This ‘multi-value-chain’ approach increases opportunities to convert and valorise new feedstocks into a wide array of bio-based products:

  • chemicals
  • materials;
  • food ingredients and feed;
  • transport fuels.

The BBI Initiative focuses on developing Europe-based value chains and accelerating the transition to advanced feedstock for biorefineries. It is aimed at:

  • building new value chains: this will involve developing sustainable, highly productive biomass collection and supply systems and making better use of biomass feedstock, including co-products, side streams and residual streams from various sources;
  • bringing existing value chains to new levels: this will involve optimising the use of biomass feedstock and offering innovative added-value products that respond to market needs; and
  • bringing existing and new technologies to maturity: this will involve using R&I and upgrading and building demonstration and flagship biorefineries that convert a wide variety of biomass into a broad range of innovative bio-based products.The Initiative builds on the strong performance of the agricultural, agro-food, forestry, pulp and paper, aquatic and bio-waste sectors, and of world-leading companies in the plant breeding, biotechnology, chemistry, energy and bioprocess engineering sectors. It capitalises on the vast amount of R&D investments and results to make Europe’s existing pilot and demonstration facilities as used and useful as possible. And finally, it seeks to leverage the combined and complementary knowledge and skills of academia, research organisations, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and larger corporations to achieve its innovation objectives.
The Bio economy and the circular economy

Bioeconomy and circular economy

The bioeconomy is integral to the circular economy, with resource efficiency and sustainability as core principles. It is circular by nature and can therefore help deliver a renewable circular economy.

As we pursue the overall strategic objectives for 2020 and 2030, the BBI Initiative actions and projects will help build a European circular economy and make its industrial sectors more competitive. In general terms, promoting the cascading use of biomass in integrated biorefineries and the innovative use of side and residual streams and bio-waste, the Initiative will support the measures outlined in the Circular Economy Package16. More specifically, it will contribute to the three pillars of the 2012 European Bioeconomy Strategy.

The Circular Economy Package also covers topics related to the Waste Framework Directive, green public procurement, biomass guidance sustainability criteria, eco-design and food waste, all of which are pertinent to the BBI Initiative.

Global challenges

What is more, the BBI Initiative is helping address global challenges related to climate (COP21), food security (EU Food 2030) and agricultural and forest policies (the EU’s common agricultural policy, or CAP, and its Forest Strategy).

Bio-based industries have the potential to decarbonise major industrial sectors such as chemicals and plastics by replacing fossil-based carbon with renewable carbon as raw materials. They could further reduce CO2 emissions through carbon capture and use in bio-based operations. Bio-based plastics can save 26 kg of CO2 equivalent per kilogram of plastic compared with petrochemical-based plastics18.

Bio-based industries can provide the food industry with resource efficiency and food waste solutions that embrace circular economy principles. The biodegradable fraction of municipal solid waste, mainly consisting of food residues from households, caterers or large food retailers, could provide economical and sustainable feedstock for biorefining purposes.

About the Bio-based Industries Consortium (BIC)

The Bio-based Industries Consortium (BIC) is a non-profit organisation set up in Brussels in 2012. BIC represents the private sector in a public-private partnership (PPP) with the EU, represented by the European Commission, known as the Bio-based Industries Joint Undertaking (BBI JU), established in June 2014 as one of the pillars of the European Commission Bioeconomy Strategy.

Full members

Associate members

About the Bioeconomy Alliance (EUBA)

With 11 other bioeconomy stakeholder organisations, BIC founded the European Bioeconomy Alliance (EUBA) on 4 February 2015. It is an informal alliance of European organisations.The Alliance’s mission is to lead the transition towards a post-petroleum society. Alliance members are: BIC – Bio-based Industries Consortium | CEFS – European Association of Sugar Producers | CEPF – Confederation of European Forest Owners | CEPI – Confederation of European Paper Industries | COPACOGECA – European Farmers and European agri-cooperatives | ePURE – European Renewable Ethanol Producers Association | EuropaBio – The European Association for Bioindustries | EUBP – European Bioplastics | FEDIOL – The EU Vegetable Oil & Proteinmeal Industry | FTP – Forest-based Sector Technology Platform | PFP – Primary Food Processors | Starch Europe – European Starch Industry Association


Lennart Ljungblom

Lennart Ljungblom is an international bioenergy professional, writer and editor with 30+ years of experience from the bioenergy business. He has during the years been a publisher and editor of the magazines, Bioenergi, Kretslopp (Recycling) and Bioenergy International. He has also performed number of bioenergy marketing studies. Now he is the publisher of 4 bioenergy professional websites.

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