BBI-JU, the public-private partnership of the EU and the Bio-based Industries Consortium, has published ambitious calls for proposal this year. While the consortia of companies looking to apply are mainly focused on technological developments, the EU requires sound evidence of the likely impact on sustainability.
“It is logical that consortia mainly focus on technological development in their plans,” says scientist Marieke Meeusen from Wageningen Economic Research. “This is their passion and underlines their added value. In nearly all calls, however, the EU stipulates an integral focus on sustainability as a condition. In concrete terms, this means that the effects in the field of people, planet and profit have to be regularly established during the trajectory. Consortia have to prove that they are taking the desired societal route.”
An additional demand of the EU is that this sustainability assessment is performed by an independent, scientifically schooled party. Meeusen: “Companies sometimes push for their own company advisor, but the EU wants to be sure that the analyses are objective and have a solid scientific foundation.”
Leading role for Wageningen Economic Research
Wageningen Economic Research plays a major role in a large number of EU programmes in the biobased economy domain as a research partner. Examples include BERST, focused on regional strategic development, OpenBio, aimed at the development of clear standards for biobased products, and FOODSECURE, which focuses on future food security worldwide.
“We have all the knowledge to establish the economic, social and environmental effects of bio-based developments,” explains Meeusen. “For example, what is the impact on a global scale when one needs raw materials for certain developments that are currently being used for other purposes? What are the effects of regional developments on employment and economic growth? And what is the impact of an innovation on land use? Consortia can come to us for answers to these types of questions.”
Macro Economic Study
Commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and TKI Biobased Economy, Wageningen Economic Research performed a Macro Economic Study earlier this year analysing the economic impact of the Netherlands using biomass on a large scale. “With these types of products we show that we have mastered a scientific analysis – which is why we are an associate member of the Biobased Industries Consortium.”
Meeusen is looking forward to have contact with companies that wish to apply to a call and are looking for a partner to substantiate the sustainability effects. “An objective scientific analysis demands specialist expertise, and we have plenty.”