On 16 and 18 November the SEI Initiative on Governing Bioeconomy Pathways hosted a two-part workshop during the online summit, together with partners from Applied Biotech International Nigeria Limited, the University of Bonn and the Science Center Jülich. The plenary speaker was Sir Andrew Haines from the Centre on Climate Change and Planetary Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
The workshop considered the current status of regional cooperation on the bioeconomy and highlighted barriers and opportunities. The discussions allowed participants to identify actors and institutions needed for advancing regional cooperation on innovative bioeconomy pathways that support health and well-being.
A more detailed workshop report will soon be available on the GBS workshop site. Watch the video to see the key lessons from the workshop and read the summary below.
1. Bioeconomy – a double-edged sword
As part of a socio-ecological system, the bioeconomy can provide solutions but also be a source of potential problems, depending on the chosen pathway. The increasing demand for bio-based products supports new economic development options in low- and medium-income countries but also requires careful management of sustainable production systems, market applications and environmental conservation. In East Africa, for example, the bioeconomy could combine locally available resources with creation of local livelihoods to address key health concerns, such as malaria. Bioeconomy development must also maintain a focus on biodiversity and conservation, as noted from the presentation on India’s Mission on biodiversity and human well-being.
2. Capacity building and policy frameworks are needed to foster regional bioeconomy collaboration
A common issue that arose across different regions was the need for capacity building through establishing competence networks and innovation clusters. Sandra Venghaus from Forschungszentrum Jülich pointed out that “this includes bringing together stakeholders with local knowledge that are often drivers of vision development for a region, as well as global players who are important for knowledge and technology transfer for access to global markets or the achievement of economies of scale”. Furthermore, the right policy frameworks, which both initiate transformation and promote cooperation, are important for trade and regional collaboration. “The focus has to shift to interregional and cross-sectoral cooperation as a motor for more widespread development of bioeconomic solutions,” Venghaus added.
3. Convening platforms will be key for a successful bioeconomy
A central cross-cutting theme expressed by participants was the importance of regional collaboration in achieving resilience. The unprecedented global disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed weaknesses in the links between regional and global production and consumption systems. Regional cooperation could bridge the existing gap between local and global approaches by promoting technology transfer, building platforms for innovation, and sharing best practice. Also, convening platforms are greatly needed to catalyze knowledge sharing, policy development, capacity building and to support sustainable bioeconomy development on all levels.
Key quotes from the workshop
“Bioeconomy pathways can yield many benefits for health, livelihoods, climate and resilience. But we will have to employ careful design, evaluation and implementation of policies and technologies to achieve these benefits and minimize trade-offs. Regional and transnational cooperation will be essential to foster rapid scale up of transdisciplinary research, evidence synthesis and capacity development for innovation and evaluation of bioeconomy policies and technologies.”
— Andrew Haines, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
“Perhaps the only silver lining on the dark clouds of the devastating pandemic is the golden opportunity to reset the button from reckless fossil-based nation-centric economies that were bound to fall off a mountain-cliff to a BIORESOURCE-Based one that is conserved and steered by applying knowledge and technology to develop highly diversified value-added Bio-products through strategic regional exchanges.”
— Diuto Esiobu, Applied Biotech Nigeria
“Although priorities vary across different world regions, bioeconomy initiatives can promote ecological health and human well-being alongside other key environment and development objectives through cross-cutting approaches that facilitate integration and innovation.”
— Francis X Johnson, SEI
“Governments should intentionally enact and implement policies that encourage synergies between neighboring nations and regions, to exchange knowledge, technology, and bioresources equitably, to support global health.”
— Diuto Esiobu, Applied Biotech Nigeria
“Successful bioeconomic transformation starts with an understanding of regional strengths and creation of visions that move beyond national borders and towards ‘bioeconomic boundaries’.”
— Sascha Stark, University of Bonn
Watch the full workshop recording