What is Bioeconomy?
The Bioeconomy Council regards the bioeconomy as a key element of the social transformation towards a more sustainable economic system. Bioeconomy is defined as the production and utilization of biological resources (including knowledge) to provide products, processes and services in all sectors of trade and industry within the framework of a sustainable economy.
Nature has always provided people with what they need to live. And economic activity with natural renewable resources such as wood was biobased for thousands of years – though often at the expense of nature.
Today human society has a better understanding of natural cycles. If it is to preserve nature and its essential resources, society must act more sustainably and economically – more bioeconomically – in the future.
Thinking bioeconomically means knowing nature’s cycles and not only utilizing them for the energy industry, the food, paper and textile industries or even for the chemical and pharmaceutical industries but also preserving them in the sense of protecting the environment and resources. This requires bioeconomy research for innovation.
For example, it is bioeconomic to have microorganisms produce materials for household or industrial use. They can thus replace energy-intensive manufacturing processes as well as those which are harmful to the climate and the environment. It is also bioeconomic to use microorganisms in the manufacture of biopharmaceuticals such as insulin and thus to help many people to obtain quality of life, pain relief or cure.
The bioeconomy, however, is not a new sector of the economy. Rather it is a testimony to the rethinking processes that are already in full swing in many industries and sectors of the economy. Sometimes individual, chemically produced substances are replaced by biological alternatives to meet environmental protection regulations. Sometimes the demand for eco-friendly products is satisfied if Lego building blocks, for example, no longer have to be made from petroleum-based plastic.
The transition to such a “greener economy”, a sustainable bioeconomy, is not possible without political decisions. It requires incentives to make the long-term benefits of bioeconomic business activities more tangible for entrepreneurs and to give consumers an understanding of the need for sustainable consumption. Achieving this goal requires more than just new, attractive products. Changes in behavior are necessary and this not only means giving up products that are bioeconomically harmful but above all bringing creativity and social commitment to new ideas that no longer exploit nature but rather preserve it and want to protect it as a source of healthy life for this and future generations.
With its wide range of opportunities, the bioeconomy can make an important contribution to solving global problems. These include the health and nutrition of a growing global population, the sustainable provision of food, energy, water and raw materials for it as well as soil protection, climate and environmental protection.
Germany is now making important decisions on the path towards a biobased economy that is geared to natural material cycles. The Federal Government’s aim is to use research and innovation to facilitate a structural transformation towards a sustainable economy. This transformation is linked to changes but also to huge opportunities for growth and employment.
The life sciences and biotechnologies will play a key role in the bioeconomy. It is this knowledge of biological processes and their targeted use that marks the beginning of a revolutionary development in technology. Similarly to digitalization, biologization of the economy will trigger an even more profound transformation in all areas of society and industry. In medicine, for example, drugs that are being developed and manufactured with the aid of biotechnology are already providing new options for curing and treating cancer and immune disorders. They have achieved a 20% market share within just a few years.