Fabio Fava, Alma Mater Studiorum- University of Bologna, Italian Representative for Bioeconomy, H2020 SC2 committee, Public Private Partnership “BioBasedIndustry” (PPP BBI JU) and BLUEMED Initiative

Bioeconomy and its potentials in Europe and Italy.

Bioeconomy refers to the various sectors of primary production. These sectors include: agriculture, livestock, forests, fisheries and aquaculture and industrial sectors which use or transform the bio-resources derived from the above-cited sectors such as: food and feed industries, cellulose, paper and wood processing industries, bio-refineries, chemical and energy industries, and also marine and maritime industry. In Europe, bioeconomy has an annual turnover of around 2.2 trillion Euros and employs more than 18 million people. Italian bioeconomy is the third largest in Europe, behind Germany and France. The annual turnover equates to more than 250 billion Euros and almost 1.7 million jobs. Furthermore, with its ability to produce better quality food and feed in larger quantities as well as biocompatible chemical components and fuels from alternative raw materials, bioeconomy guarantees food safety and quality, it reduces environmental pollution and climate change and, consequently, represents the main solution to the growing demand for food resulting from the progressive growth in world population and the decrease in traditional and non-renewable raw material. In addition, bio-economy regenerates the environment, limits the loss of biodiversity and the large transformations in land use. This is facilitated through the creation of new economic and employment growth - starting from local singularities and traditions, particularly in rural, coastal and industrial areas which are suffering from the current economic crisis – following the principles included in Junker’s Agenda for Jobs, Growth, Fairness and Democratic Change. Finally, the efficient use of renewable organic resources together with increased sustainable primary production and efficient processing systems for the production of foods, fibres and other organic products combined with a decrease in use of input material, less waste and emissions of greenhouse gases (such as the exploitation of organic waste from agriculture, forests, cities and industry -primarily food), ensures that bio-economy plays a key role in the circular economy.

Why do we need a national strategy for bioeconomy?

The implementation of the afore mentioned actions requires direct research and innovation (R&I) responses. These responses should be aimed at strengthening and integrating the above-mentioned industrial-production sectors by creating new or longer value chains to be undertaken on a national level along with specific training and informative actions. A shared view between the institutions and the main public-private actors operating in the sector is also needed. This should be in relation to its economic, social and environmental opportunities, and ultimately to the challenges connected to the creation of an integrated bioeconomy rooted in the area and the required actions for its implementation. In 2012 the European Union had already developed an ambitious strategy with important planned funding in support of R&I under Horizon 2020 and the Public Private Partnership "Bio-based Industries", as well as under the creation of the "Bioeconomy Panel" (DG RTD), of the "expert group on biobased products" (DG GROW) in support of the market of bioproducts as well as the implementation by the Joint Research Centre of a "Bioeconomy Observatory" with the SCAR (Standing Committee on Agricultrual Research ) to carry out a foresight exercise focusing on the consequences, criticalities and opportunities of bioeconomy in the European countries. Hence the decision of Italy to adopt a national strategy for bioeconomy, the "Italian Strategy for Bioeconomy" (BIT) ( signed by 5 Ministries (the Ministry of Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies, the Ministry of Education, University and Research, the Ministry of Economic Development, the Ministry of Environment, Land and Sea Protection, the Ministry of Territorial Cohesion and Southern Italy), by the Conference of the Regions and the Autonomous Provinces of Italy, the Agency for Territorial Cohesion and The National Technological Clusters of Green Chemistry (SPRING) and Agri-Food (CLAN).

Challenges and Action Plan for the Italian Strategy for Bioeconomy (BIT)

The strategy aims to achieve, by 2030, a 20% increase in economic activities and jobs that are attributable to the Italian bioeconomy. The actions aimed at achieving this result are:

 a - Improving the sustainable production and the quality of the products in each sector (from primary production to processing), by taking advantage of the interconnections between the sectors in a more efficient way, with an accurate exploitation of both terrestrial and marine biodiversity, of ecosystem services and circularity, with the creation of new and longer value chains which are more rooted in the territory that could allow the regeneration of abandoned areas, marginal lands and discarded industrial sites;

b - Creating more investments in R&I, in spin-offs/start-ups, in education, training and communication; improving the coordination between stakeholders and policies at regional, national and European levels; improving public involvement, and conducting targeted actions aimed at developing the market for biobased products.

The Strategy also includes actions for the promotion of  bioeconomy in the Mediterranean Basin, mainly through an incisive participation in the BLUEMED and PRIMA initiatives, aimed at supporting the valorisation of natural resources, the environmental regeneration and the agro-food productivity of the area by guaranteeing this way a wider social cohesion and a greater political stability to the area. The actions for the Strategic Agenda for Bioeconomy and its priorities are accompanied by measures aimed at ensuring the framework conditions required for its effective implementation.

The above mentioned strategy is part of the implementation process of the National Smart Specialisation Platform (S3 national) for its themes "Health, Food and Quality of Life" and "Intelligent and Sustainable Industry, Energy and the Environment", and it is implemented in synergy with the " The Environmental Action Strategy for Sustainable Development” in Italy and its principles to ensure the reconciliation of economic growth with environmental sustainability.