We were honoured to receive an invitation to join the 10th Anniversary Celebration of BIC, Bio-based Industries Consortium. Held in the grand theatre of the La Plaza Hotel in Brussels, BIC had invited members, partners from Brussels-based associations, the European Commission, and the EU bioeconomy community for an afternoon of panel discussions and keynotes – followed by a celebratory reception.
Rob Beekers (Cargill), the current chairman of BIC, took the opportunity to stress that virgin fossil fuel could not be part of a circular economy. The challenge now is to find alternatives for its use for materials – and here bio-based feedstocks as well as bioprocesses are part of the answer.
Two keynotes set interesting aspects: Mary Maxton (Schmidt Futures) gave a view into US policy, which had in some cases preceded EU bioeconomy policy development and lagged in others. The much-noted Executive Order on Advancing Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing as well as the Inflation Reduction Act give strong impetus to bioeconomy topics, with a clear interest high up in the policy area. She cautioned, however, that good policy also needs good oversight and follow-through. John Elkington of Volans referred to Biomimicry 3.8, “Innovation inspired by nature”: questioning whether materials could provide more than just the mere service they were designed for, but in addition providing ecosystem services such as air purification or CO2 capture.
One of our CLIB members, Sophie Roelants from Amphistar, was part of a panel discussion and pointed out that start-ups have to allocate significant resources to attract investment and funding – efforts which they then lack in their technology or product development. Even with the funding provided by the CBE JU, in which BIC is the private partner, SMEs only receive 60 % funding. She called for easier application procedures and incentives for biobased products in order to support the new biobased innovations entering the market.
What became clear from the discussions was that the bio-based industries welcome the support received by the EC in the CBE JU, but that much more needs to be done to now realise the bioeconomy in practice. While the bioeconomy is coming of age in theory, it now needs to grow up in the market. For this, we need clear regulation to create a level playing field, incentives to use sustainable bio-based materials, and investment by public and private actors. Christian Patermann pointed to the need for bioeconomy to be clearly included in the portfolio of an EU Commissioner and recognised as strategic projects of common European Interest.
Congratulations to BIC on the achievements of the past 10 years and all the best for the next decade of Bio-Based Industries! CLIB will continue to support the association as member, and in various bodies, such as the Programming Working Group and the Human Resources Network.