With the help of the bioeconomy, it is hoped that future economic growth will be generated in harmony with nature and environmental protection. Yet between Germany and the EU, views differ on how the theme of the bioeconomy should be put into practice.
In February 2012, the European Commission in Brussels launched its „Innovating for Sustainable Growth: a Bioeconomy for Europe“ strategy and action plan. Its objective is to change the European economy, aiming for the stronger and more sustainable use of renewable resources. The Commission supports a coherent, cross-sectoral and interdisciplinary approach to this issue.
Far-reaching ideas from Brussels
The Commission’s plan focuses on three key factors, namely a) the development of new technologies and processes for the bioeconomy, b) supporting markets and competitiveness in bioeconomy sectors and c) strengthening the cooperation between policy makers and other stakeholders. On this basis, a more innovative economy is to be built with low emissions in order to ensure the sustainability of agriculture and fisheries, the safety of the food supply, and the sustainable use of renewable biological resources in industry. The EU Commission refers to the totality of biotechnological possibilities in its plan, including European agricultural and fishery markets. This very broad definition sometimes impedes a clear focus.
The „Horizon 2020“ research program is more precise and specific, however. This was also initiated by the EU Commission and the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). Its key objective is to close the gap between research and markets through the transformation of innovative ideas into marketable products and technologies. With its focus on „Industrial leadership“, the program names six eligible key industries, including industrial biotechnology. The target groups are universities, research institutes, and companies that intend to carry out research and development projects, demonstration projects or innovation activities at the European level. The program also includes specific opportunities for supporting venture capital funding from the European Investment Bank and a targeted promotion of innovation in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
Both the EU Commission and politicians in Germany have raised the importance of the issue of the „bio-economy“. While the Commission’s approach can be primarily understood as being a well-intentioned appeal for action, „Horizon 2020“ decisively focuses on the practical promotion of business, research and teaching, and explicitly refers to the importance of industrial biotechnology as a key technology.