A modern bioeconomy can offer resource efficiency, climate-smart and sustainable production systems for food, feed, fuels and value-added agro-industrial products, and hence a healthier and more prosperous future.

However, despite a wide agreement on the future significance of the bioeconomy, there is less on the pathways that should be followed. This is mainly due to the wide range of biophysical and socio-economic circumstances in which bioeconomies are developing, and to uncertainty about the potential impacts of bioeconomy development over time.

Resolving these issues often requires social and political engagement rather than the techno-economic approaches that currently dominate, a gap that the initiative will try to address.

The SEI Initiative on Governing Bioeconomy Pathways aims to better articulate the alternative pathways available for bioeconomy development, and to identify the policies, institutions and governance mechanisms that can facilitate each of them.

Some key questions the initiative will explore are:

  1. How is the bioeconomy important for sustainable development,  and what are the key challenges and opportunities in a development context?
  2. How is value created and realised in the bioeconomy across different physical landscapes, development levels and market sectors?
  3. What are the key impacts of the bioeconomy and how can these impacts be measured and evaluated in the context of sustainable development and poverty alleviation?
  4. Where in the geopolitical space can cohesive bioeconomy strategies be developed and what scenarios or pathways are feasible and/or desirable at different levels?
  5. Who are the key stakeholders and decision-makers in the bioeconomy, and what types of dialogue and other interaction could support improved governance?

To provide empirical support to the conceptual frameworks being developed and tested, the initiative will use case studies and policy engagement at different levels, local, national, regional and global. The specific locations and issues to be addressed in case studies are not yet determined but will have a special focus in East Africa and South-East Asia. Lessons will also be drawn from bioeconomies that are fairly well documented or developed, in the EU, Brazil and the US.

Policy Dialogues on bioeconomy for sustainable development

SEI is conducting a series of dialogues to clarify the barriers and enablers for a more inclusive bioeconomy for various potential pathways of implementation, across different levels of governance and geographies. The dialogues have a national and regional basis but also respond to local concerns and global markets by gathering a diverse group of stakeholders.

The diversity of potential pathways towards a sustainable bioeconomy has divided the relevant stakeholder dialogues into an increasingly contentious set of debates. Due to the polarised positions, compromises that are reached tend to lead to re-affirmation of the status quo at precisely the time when new directions are needed for the bioeconomy and sustainability transitions in general. At the same time, each of the new alternatives has to be highly contextualized across different countries and regions, reflecting and tailoring to the vast differences in levels of development, infrastructure, institutional maturity and human resource capacity.

The aim is to facilitate a more cohesive and constructive stakeholder dialogue, empowering key actors and organisations to institutionalize strategic thinking on bioeconomy into their operations.

The Policy Dialogues are co-financed by the Swedish Innovation Authority (Vinnova) and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). The project is developed and implemented independently by SEI in collaboration with Gothenburg Center for Sustainable development (GMV ) and RISE .