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This interdisciplinary project contributes to improving the knowledge on the impacts of global biomass trade flows and bioeconomic technological innovation on economic indicators in NRW and Germany as well as environmental impact indicators in major biomass exporting countries. It addresses the lack of an explicit German research agenda on sustainability governance in the bioeconomy. Ecological-economic modelling techniques and innovation road mapping will be combined to simulate global biomass flows and their impacts in alternative scenarios that are developed in participatory stakeholder consultations.

What is the relevance for bioeconomy?

Biomass is an essential raw material for bio-based economic transformations in economic sectors that rely on biomass intensive value chains. Apart from boosting the demand for biomass-based food, feed, fuel, and fibers, a global bioeconomy will also rely on diversified biomass uses (e.g. bio-based materials), and alternative biomass sources, such as residues or algae. Technological and regulatory innovation in biomass producing and processing sectors is thus a key driver of bioeconomy development, but will also be pivotal in securing its long-term sustainability. However, the sustainability of the global bioeconomy also hinges on appropriate environmental and social safeguards as well as institutional frameworks for their implementation. Research on these important aspects of bioeconomy governance is still lagging behind the political processes that support bioeconomic transformations in Germany and Europe. By assessing the potential impact of technological change on global biomass flows at both ends of the bioeconomy value chain (production and use/consumption), the proposed research contributes to the main strategic objectives of the NRW-Strategieprojekt BioSC. It represents a necessary first step towards an interdisciplinary economic, social and environmental impact assessment of global bioeconomic change and synergistically links to ongoing research at the partner institutions within BioSC and beyond. The project’s results are expected to help setting priorities for national and global bioeconomy governance initiatives and thus integrate well with the sustainability criteria put forward by the German and NRW bioeconomy strategies.

Expected results/ project products

Biomass sourcing: In the global bioeconomy, Germany will increasingly operate as a net biomass importer. Sustainable biomass sourcing strategies for bioeconomy-relevant business sectors will then be a precondition for the overall sustainability of the German bioeconomy. Project findings can help these business sectors to develop more effective environmental safeguards for biomass procurement.
Science and innovation policy: Germany’s leading role as a source of innovation in the bioeconomy places global responsibility at the core of its science and innovation policy agenda. Research results from this project are expected to help identify future innovation trends and their potential impacts on key environmental, social, and economic sustainability indicators as an input to the design of appropriate science and innovation policies. Sustainable consumption: Bioeconomy development is associated with a transformation of traditional value chains into complex value-webs. By linking key biomass value chains to potential environmental threats, this project contributes to increasing the transparency needed for informed consumer choices.
Societal discourse on bioeconomy and innovation: It is important to base the necessary societal discourse on the implementation of bioeconomy in NRW and Germany on sound data and projections.
Interaction modes between economy and technology innovation research: The BioSC strategy-project provides a unique option to improve interdisciplinary collaboration between social and natural scientists. This learning experience will be an important basis for follow-up projects linking economy and technological sciences.