The bioeconomy is a term for economic activity that uses biological resources from land and sea – such as crops, forests, fish, animals and micro-organisms – and the process of transforming them into food, energy, and other products and services.

While the traditional bioeconomy is of course thousands of years old, nowadays the term usually describes processes that add value to biomass using biotechnology. While many rural areas of the Baltic Sea Region are abundant in natural resources, there has not been much innovation aimed at adding economic value to raw biomass.

A new project, RDI2CluB, led by JAMK Jyväskylä University of Applied Sciences in Finland, is setting out to bridge this gap and help rural areas to reach their full bioeconomy potential without degrading natural resources.

A digital platform, the Open Virtual Bio-business Hub, will enable joint development of new products, services and business opportunities, as well as matchmaking, collaboration and creative encounters between experts in different fields.

“The hub will provide services such as transferring knowledge from Norwegian research institutes into the practical work of entrepreneurs in Vidzeme or providing Latvian institutes with access to the facilities of Finnish universities or enabling Estonian public authorities to attract experts from Poland”, said Santa Niedola, Project Manager from Vidzeme Planning Region in Latvia.

Four pilot projects in four countries will be used to test the transnational operational model. One of the projects in Latvia uses drone technology to do environmental resource assessments, aiming to create a new concept of bioeconomy service. The pilot projects will help to test the hub by getting feedback from end-users, especially small- and medium-sized enterprises.

Kaja Peterson, Programme Director at SEI Tallinn, said that SEI’s role in the project is to support bioeconomy business development and innovation in Estonia and develop its bioeconomy profile.

“We will survey of the current state of bioeconomy resources and businesses in Estonia. The survey will cover the existing resource base, how much and what kind of bioeconomy resources there are and what products are being produced by which businesses, as well as any existing patents. This will give businesses a clear picture of the sector and its untapped potential. The profile can be a really useful tool for decision making”, said Peterson.

JAMK Jyväskylä University of Applied Sciences is partnering in the project with SEI Tallinn and 10 other research and development organizations and business development bodies in Finland, Poland, Estonia, Norway and Latvia. The project focuses on five regions: central Finland, Hedmark County in Norway, Świętokrzyskie Voivodeship in Poland, and Vidzeme region in Latvia and Estonia. RDI2CluB is funded by Interreg BSR Programme 2014–2020.