Monday, 04 May 2020 13:18

Bioeconomy for the regions, regions for the bioeconomy

Written by  Irīna Kulitāne, Expert in economics and regional development Vidzeme Planning Region, Latvia

Someone might ask whether this is an appropriate time to talk about the bioeconomy and future of regions when the world is focused on a microscopic, but powerful threat that has been able to halt humans' plans and actions temporarily, reduce access to financial resources and freeze development intentions. 

We are claiming to argue that more than appropriate. Economy more than ever needs know-how, new business models and creative approach enabling individuals, legal entities and regions to change and adapt quickly to new situation, as well awareness and knowledge on how and for what we can use regional natural resources in situation of limited movement of people and goods. By identifying alternative and novel opportunities for use of local resources, we will create new business activities, thus strengthening local and regional economy. By addressing regional challenges and by strengthening local producers, we will increase applicability of the resources, as well will help enterprises to secure business and socioeconomic benefits they create. Especially significant it is for the main sectors of the bioeconomy: agriculture and food processing, forestry and woodworking, fisheries and others forming the backbone of regional economies. They are securing regions' stocks of food and energy materials and are providing jobs to thousands of people around the Baltic Sea.

We are willing to tell about the initiatives in development of the bioeconomy in Finland, Norway, Latvia, Estonia and Poland, and hope that our experience will inspire readers to look at traditional natural resources from a new, innovative perspective and to act in order to transform this potential in new, unique products and services, will encourage research, development and innovation, as well will motivate different level public authorities to develop and implement support mechanisms that stimulate the bioeconomy while at the same time ensure balance among economic, social and environmental interests of regions.

 

Knowledge is backbone of development

Twelve partners from five European countries have developed the Joint Action Plan for the Development of a Knowledge-Driven Regional Bioeconomy Innovation Ecosystems. Partners have agreed that three core elements are the most significant for efficient innovation ecosystems:

  1. knowledge for those who produce products and services, especially for those who innovate
  2. well-functioning ecosystems, where services and tools available are linking bioeconomy stakeholders across borders and are providing access to knowledge, experts and RTD and innovation facilities, and
  3. awareness of the society on the bioeconomy, its potential and novel approaches on application of the existing natural resources.

The joint action plan was approved in mid-2019 and it foresees 17 joint actions, grounding on identified needs and capacity of each involved region. As the range of measures is very wide, we will present some joint initiatives already implemented or being in progress.

Knowledge is backbone of development, especially of innovation, and because of this reason great attention is paid towards knowledge sharing, exchange and co-creation in diverse partnerships. Joint initiatives, such as development of new and improvement of existing technologies for wildlife monitoring have been started by Norway’s and Latvia’s researchers and practitioners. They have planned also joint measures for automatization of lake ecosystem monitoring process. Finnish and Latvian food processing SMEs have shared knowledge on production of niche food products from local natural resources. A group of Latvian researchers and entrepreneurs has acquainted with Norway's knowledge and experience in the smart use of wood resources in construction and is working on transfer of this experience for development of smart wood cross-sectoral laboratory in Latvia. These small steps have helped researchers and businesses obtain knowledge they need or to get insight into how to combine the specific knowledge from different fields. In some cases it significantly has speeded up products and services development without long-lasting, expensive research and technological development measures.

 

Those who manage natural resources know where and how they can be applied

Development of services and support tools is good intangible investment addressing and satisfying the bioeconomy stakeholders' needs for experienced labour force, expertise, advice, funding or other type of support. One of such measures is the development of innovative, high-quality flexible adult learning pathways for smart specialization oriented SMEs. Vidzeme Planning Region (Latvia) and JAMK University of Applied Sciences (Finland) with participation of other adult education and business support organisations from Germany, Spain, Estonia and Lithuania, have started development of the methodology, which will be piloted in SMEs and further will help enterprises to attract and to manage qualified personnel effectively, thus satisfying companies' needs for researchers, engineers, technologists and other skilled staff. First results and conclusions are expected at the end of 2020.

Awareness on natural resources potential and their application possibilities within the bioeconomy is an important that those who own or those who manage natural resources know where and how they can be applied, especially for innovative products and services. Raising awareness is especially significant in Baltic countries and Poland, where society's awareness level on the bioeconomy and innovation is lower, than in Nordic countries. In order to create positive change, targeted awareness raising events, attracting the most experienced European experts, have been organised in Latvia and Estonia. Two bioeconomy innovation fora, bringing together more than 100 participants from Latvia and abroad were held in Vidzeme in 2019. At the same year the national level bioeconomy conference with participation of the industry, politicians, researchers and consumers has been organised in Estonia. These events have helped to create such outcomes as improvement of mechanisms and tools, aimed to support fields of the bioeconomy, new research and technological projects, agreed among participants; and other.

 

The Biobord platform is an open and voluntary community of bioeconomy developers that connects the users

Aware of the role of knowledge, experience and exchange of views, and of how much time and financial resources would be needed for on-site activities, the partners have developed an information technology-based solution - an open virtual innovation hub - the Biobord platform - that allows obtaining knowledge, sharing expertise, offering and providing research and technological development services and carrying other relevant activities virtually. The Biobord platform is an open and voluntary community of bioeconomy developers that connects the users, by offering tools for knowledge and information on the bioeconomy resource management and sharing and provides innovation support services. More than 230 businesses, researchers, inventors and developers, as well public authorities from different countries are already using the platform for co-working, peer learning, matchmaking, and networking.

All we have described so far is a start of the bioeconomy "story". In a few months bioeconomy good practices brochure will be published, where everyone interested will have opportunity to acquaint with different stories on how traditional raw materials have been transformed into innovative products; how community is taking action for creation of sustainable and environmentally friendly housing; how new business model helps to create sustainable, export oriented business, and other. The brochure will be available in the platform: https://biobord.eu/, but the platform itself offers much more possibilities. If you will decide to become its user, it will provide you opportunities to find research, technological development partners, will offer you innovation services, as well will let you to offer your services, will enhance possibilities to get and to share knowledge, and many other opportunities. You are welcomed!

 

Measures, described in this text, are implemented within the project RDI2CluB, a Flagship project of EUSBSR Policy Area Bioeconomy. The project is funded by ERDF within EU Baltic Sea Region Programme.

 

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