What exactly is the contribution of the bioeconomy to the well-being of Europeans? And what will be the effects of policy measures to make the shift from 'fossil' economy to 'circular' economy? To gain detailed insights into the European bioeconomy, Wageningen University & Research works together with 17 public and private parties on one European data and model framework: BioMonitor.
BioMonitor is a four-year project under the flag of the EU Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme. Justus Wesseler, Professor of Agricultural Economics & Rural Policy at Wageningen University & Research, is the coordinator of the project. 'Europe needs a reliable modeling framework to be able to measure the progress of the bioeconomy,' he says. 'The contribution of 'bio-based' sectors to the food sector is to a certain extent already well-covered, but that does not apply to non-food sectors. While it is precisely these sectors that gain significance in the bioeconomy, as Louise Fresco also pointed out during the opening of the academic year of 2018.'
Predict future developments
Reliable statistical information is not only necessary to map the current situation, but also to predict future developments. Wesseler: 'The current economic models use data at EU level to analyse, for example, the future effects of climate change or scarce fossil resources, but also to analyse the consequences of different policy scenarios. The BioMonitor project builds on these models and focuses on the impact of the bioeconomy.'
Case studies serve as practice to show industrial partners and policymakers how BioMonitor works. As an example, Wesseler mentions planned investments in the Slovak biorefining industry.' In this case study, we want to show how we can measure the contribution of these investments in regional development. We look at the regional GDP, but also at the number of jobs created and the distribution of bio-based products in the Slovak economy."
For the development of the BioMonitor project, the consortium works together with statistical offices. Together with them, the consortium will determine which information is already available and how existing measuring systems can be improved. Wageningen Economic Research plays an important role in this, says its project leader Myrna van Leeuwen: 'We ensure that the bio-based data are collected in such a way that they can be integrated in the BioMonitor model toolbox. Existing models will be expanded so that we can measure new connections and effects considering the bioeconomy. To ensure that the BioMonitor project finds its way to practice, we are launching a stakeholder platform. Here, we discuss the wishes and requirements of the users, such as policymakers and the industry.' A first stakeholder workshop will be catered on 23 October.
According to Wesseler, statistical models used in the EU Member States are already highly standardised. 'If we can improve the existing models to measure the development of the bioeconomy consistently, it must be possible to apply the BioMonitor framework in all member states.'