International experts from business and science met in Halle (Saale) at the fifth International Bioeconomy Conference on the 1st and 2nd of June 2016. They discussed the pre-requisites and opportunities for changing to biobased resources as the basis of a climate-neutral, biobased economy. In addition to biorefinery concepts and value chains, conference topics included socioeconomic aspects, as well as the stress tolerance and productivity of plants. The specific regional approaches being used in the model region of Saxony-Anhalt and Central Germany were presented for the first time in their own sub-sessions. The conference was organized by the ScienceCampus Halle - Plant-based Bioeconomy (WCH) and the BioEconomy Cluster.
Once again the organizers of the two-day conference invited a number of renowned speakers with the aim of advancing the development of the biobased economy in the region of Saxony-Anhalt and Central Germany through the use of European synergies. Partner countries of this year’s conference were from the BeNeLux region. Particular attention was paid on both days to the countries’ bioeconomic developments. More than 240 participants from science, politics and business discussed the requirements and opportunities for a change in raw material away from petroleum towards renewable, biobased resources. The partner cluster Biobased Delta from the Netherlands was, naturally, among the guests. At the conference, held at the Leibniz Institute for Agricultural Development in Transition Economies (IAMO), it was shown that the bioeconomy is a key topic of the future for Saxony-Anhalt.
Conference representatives were united in wanting to strengthen and expand the common pioneering role of this economic and scientific issue within the European context. Speaker Prof. Hans van Meijl from the University of Wageningen in the Netherlands explained how necessary it is for science, business and policy to work closely together in this context. “In order to achieve positive macro-economic effects and emission reductions, we need a number of measures, like a tax on CO2, as well as further research activities.” This effect can be achieved by combining rapid technological change with global markets that have low prices for biomass. Prof. Erik Gawel, from the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research, also pointed out that the competition between renewable raw materials and fossil fuels is skewed as a result of the limited internalization of environmental costs.
Science is on the right path and process intensification in biorefineries is in full swing. Prof. Ludo Niels, from the Flemish Institute for Technological Research (VITO) in Belgium, vividly explained that the trend towards sustainability and resource efficiency is ongoing, whereby the main focus is on energy efficiency and environmentally friendly processes. Hence, the overall focus is directed towards process intensification.
The 5th International Bioeconomy Conference once again highlights the role of Saxony-Anhalt as a model region for the bioeconomy in Germany and Europe. Two leading organizations, the Science Campus Halle (who launched the conference in 2012) and the BioEconomy Cluster, are headquartered in Halle (Saale). Hans-Joachim Hennings, Head of the Department of Research, Innovation and Europe at Saxony-Anhalt’s Ministry of Economic Affairs, considers his state to be heading in the right direction in terms of a biobased economy. With its state-of-the-art agriculture sector and a wide research base for plant science, the state is best equipped to meet the goals of the national research strategy “BioEconomy 2030”, which aims to establish as stronger biobased economy. Says Hennings: “Saxony-Anhalt has developed into a center of biomass use in terms of cultivation and utilization. In 2014 the State of Saxony-Anhalt declared “chemistry and bioeconomy” to be one of its five lead markets. The bioeconomy provides new markets and opportunities to grow, which we want to take advantage of.”
The global population is expected to rise to 30 billion people by 2030 – with the size of the land available for food cultivation remaining unchanged. Climate change will prompt an increase in extreme weather and a scarcity of natural resources like food and water. There is a growing consciousness about this issue, however courses of action are still being sought. The bioeconomy is considered to be one of the key concepts of the 21st century.
The 6th International Bioeconomy Conference will take place on the 10th and 11th of May 2017 in Halle (Saale). More information can be found at www.bioeconomy-conference.de