Practical tools with which regions in Europe can boost the bio-economy – that is the goal of POWER4BIO, a 2.5-year project of Wageningen Food & Biobased Research together with 14 European partners. One of the results will be an online catalogue full of potential applications and good practices with which Dutch regions can also accelerate their circular ambitions.
“The region (province, municipality, part of the country) is a logical scale in the bio-economy,” says project leader Martien van den Oever of Wageningen Food & Biobased Research. “The bio-economy runs on raw materials from the land and you process them – preferably in the neighbourhood. With POWER4BIO we want to show regional policymakers what else you can do with biomass besides composting or fermenting; for example, you can use it to make chemicals, materials or animal feed and sometimes even food products. This knowledge is still not being sufficiently spread in some regions, and we aim to change that with this project.”
POWER4BIO has resulted in a wide range of knowledge instruments, such as tools to map out which parts of the bio-economy are interesting for a particular region. An online catalogue has also been developed with a large number of potential solutions and good practices. “If you search the catalogue for keywords, you will find a large number of applications that have already demonstrated their value in the market or that have at least at pilot level been proven to work,” explains Van den Oever. “You can search the catalogue for raw material, technology and products. We aimed to offer policymakers an overview of possible regional applications in plain language. This will make things easy for them. They can of course also do a Google search themselves, but then there’s the question where to start, and how to assess whether the information you find on the internet is also relevant for your region.”
Feasible business models
The researchers from the knowledge institutions – in addition to Wageningen Food & Biobased Research, three other European knowledge institutions are participating in the project – have also taken 19 feasible business models by the horns. These models include, for example, mushroom cultivation on coffee grounds or the use of fly larvae to convert fresh organic waste into valuable proteins. Van den Oever explains: “We use the business model canvas to show how these 19 models work. Who are the raw material suppliers, for example? Where are the customers, and what is the added value of the technology? Does it lead to sustainable products, or is the added value mainly that residual flows are processed locally instead of incinerated?”
Eight steps to strategy
The final phase of the project consists of formulating a Bioeconomy strategy accelerator toolkit, namely a method that allows policymakers to develop a biobased strategy in eight steps. “The aim is to guide them step by step through the process, from finding stakeholders and developing a vision to creating a concrete regional strategy and a roadmap to implementation. The outcome may be, for example, that the region focusses on processing biomass in its own region. But it may also be that the region chooses to cooperate with a neighbouring region, because it has large-scale production facilities that are necessary for the desired application.”
Edwin Hamoen, biorefinery programme manager at Wageningen Food & Biobased Research, hopes that POWER4BIO will make it easier for regions to take the step to the bio-economy: “The will is there, but policymakers are struggling with the question of how to harness it and get started. There are so many aspects to consider. With this toolkit full of resources we help them to get a grip on the situation and initiate the process. If desired, we then also act as a sounding board, offering regions targeted feedback on certain components so that they can get to work in concrete terms.”