European economists are developing a toolkit to assist regions in giving a boost to their bio-economy. The toolkit will comprise a list of factors to allow policymakers and regional stakeholders to determine which plans are viable and to provide an overview of successful regions.
BERST (BioEconomy Regional Strategy Toolkit) is a project that brings together eight research institutes and seven regional organisations from the EU. Myrna van Leeuwen of LEI Wageningen UR leads the project, which started in December 2013. “We are still at the beginning,” she says. “What we ultimately wish to deliver is a product that will allow regions to determine which approach to take and whether or not there are worthwhile opportunities in the bio-economy.
Indicators for a promising bio-economy
LEI Wageningen UR is joined in BERST by the other Wageningen research institutes Alterra and Food & Biobased Research. Remco Kranendonk of Alterra is setting up a regional network and is analysing regional networks in successful regions.
The scientists and regional stakeholders are currently working on a list of indicators which together determine opportunities for investments in the bio-economy. Examples include the availability of sufficient biomass, good logistics, the presence of research institutes and, crucially, demand for biomass, for example from the chemical or automotive industry.
But when are the conditions good enough? “To determine this, we will also draw up a list of good practices, so that regions can emulate the best performing competitors,” Van Leeuwen answers. “If we know what they’re doing and what resources they have at their disposal, we have a benchmark to assess the chances of our own region.”
Biobased Delta Region as an example
The overview should also specify the resources that local governments have successfully used to stimulate the bio-economy. Van Leeuwen expects that the Dutch Biobased Delta region (biobaseddelta.nl) could be on the list of good practices. The Biobased Delta (Zeeland, South Holland and Western Brabant) benefits from its proximity to two major ports associated with chemical industries, as well as the availability of biomass. “It is clear that this initiative has made an impression on my European colleagues,” Van Leeuwen states. BERST is funded under the Seventh Framework Programme of the European Union.