Transformative bioeconomies: Towards a materials transition

Phasing out fossil feedstock not only requires a transition towards renewable energy, but also a transition towards renewable materials. We need to develop new ways of producing the materials we use (plastics, textiles, building materials, etc.) and also device strategies to support and speed up this transition.

Wageningen University & Research has broad experience in transitions of food systems, but less in relation to the bioeconomy. That is why this investment theme will connect several scientific fields, more specifically ‘sustainability transition studies’ and ‘renewable carbon-based materials’. These fields have so far operated largely separately within Wageningen University & Research and elsewhere.


The materials transition requires effective integration of knowledge from several fields:

  1. Expertise in technologies for renewable carbon production, re-use, recycling and de-materialization, based in several natural science disciplines;
  2. Expertise in sustainable and fair transitions, incorporating options and insights from several disciplinary perspectives e.g.sociology, ecology and economics;
  3. Expertise and perspectives from societal stakeholders on whom transition in society eventually critically depends;

The investment theme therefore aims to strengthen the collaboration and coordination between scientists from widely diverging disciplines as well as between these scientists and societal stakeholders. To achieve this we develop innovative methodologies, concepts, tools and modes of working that facilitate enhanced mutual understanding and the integration of knowledge across disciplines and bodies of expertise, and work towards coherent action perspectives for all involved. At the same time we explore, develop and test novel technical, nature-based and/or social solutions and principles that have a potential to contribute to the materials transition, and make these part of a collaborative process.

The investment theme works primarily in the societal sectors of textiles and building materials (interior and housing), but the methods and principles developed are geared to having a wider relevance for research, education and value creation.

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