CIRCE is coordinating an initiative involving eleven countries to promote the use of waste and natural local resources as raw materials and minimise their oil dependency
The biobased economy is a powerfully emerging sector with huge potential, moving roughly €2 billion and providing employment for almost 22 million people across Europe. But there are still a great many regions that do not take full advantage of the potential their area has of yielding sustainable products instead of fossil-based resources. POWER4BIO emerged to help these regions drive the biobased economy forward in their areas and analyse the transition from a realistic and competitive standpoint, backed by €3 million of funding from the European Commission under Horizon2020.
Taking care of the project's coordination is CIRCE in Spain, along with 16 institutions from 11 European countries that are working together to develop the full potential of the biobased economy, boosting rural development, creating highly qualified employment and encouraging independence from fossil fuels. The activities involved in the project will be taking place in five regions in central and eastern Europe and another five in western Europe, including Andalusia, but the idea is for any region in Europe to be able to benefit from the results achieved. Altogether, there are ten regions involved representing an estimated population of 88 million Europeans, a GDP of €2.4 billion and a surface area of 450,000 km2.
To help achieve their goals, POWER4BIO will be equipping these regions with the tools and guidelines they need to implement sound, sustainable and competitive bioeconomy strategies in the short term by leveraging mature technologies. This will involve using biomass (agri-forest and agrarian waste) and natural resources from other sectors. Thanks to the variety of regions taking part, the strategies developed will be suitable for the rest of Europe, meaning that each area can adapt them according to their local raw materials and resources.
Using these raw materials from natural sources will help develop new, more sustainable products or replace the elements in existing products with more environmentally friendly alternatives. The sectors that stand to gain from these new biobased business models include textiles, plastics, automotives, food for humans and animals, fertilisers and many more.
The project will start by mapping the waste and raw materials available in each region, as well as the capacity they have (in terms of know-how, business fabric, logistics, etc.) to drive the transition towards a biobased economy. An assessment will be carried out to analyse which current technologies are suitable for making use of and transforming the raw materials available. They will then gather a series of best practices applied in Europe and draw up roadmaps and guidelines to help the regions understand, identify and pick out the most appropriate solutions to develop their local bioeconomy.
Another task will involve analysing regulatory and social aspects with a view to surmounting some of the hurdles on the path to biobased economy in Europe, such as a lack of regional policies to support it and the scarce trust shown by consumers in this type of products.
CIRCE and its fellow technical partners will be guiding the regions through the process of defining their own bioeconomy strategies based on everything they learn from this project. The partners will also be putting together a training programme to encourage regional technicians to qualify in this field.
The ultimate goal is to develop a set of tools that can be used by any other region and to boost collaboration among regions, both within the same country and between countries, creating a sustainable socio-economic system based on efficient use of local natural resources.
Last week, CIRCE held a meeting as the coordinator to launch the project in Brussels. There were more than thirty representatives from the various institutions involved in the consortium from Germany, Belgium, Slovakia, Spain, Greece, Netherlands, Hungary, Italy, Poland, the Czech Republic and Ukraine.
The overall aim of the meeting was to plan how to set about analysing the regions and considering what it will take to ensure a smooth and effective transition towards the biobased economy.