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Bioeconomy – A Strategy for Austria

The Austrian Bioeconomy Strategy was passed by the Council of Ministers on 13 March 2019.

The bioeconomy is one of the primary issues of the future: How can we as a society treat natural resources in a sustainable and responsible way while also running a thriving economy?

The bioeconomy refers to an economic approach that seeks to replace fossil resources (raw materials and fuels) with renewable raw materials in as many areas and applications as possible. It encompasses all industrial and economic sectors that produce, process, handle or use biological resources. The bioeconomy is expected to help overcome global challenges such as climate change, food and water shortages, and increasing environmental pollution while strengthening economic developments.

In its government programme for 2017-22, the Austrian Federal Government set out to devise a Bioeconomy Strategy in Austria in order to encourage the potential of knowledge and expertise to be used and to decarbonise the economic system. The Strategy was presented in March 2019. The action plan is being drawn up in 2019 on the basis of this strategy.

The fields of action identified in the strategy provide the framework for selecting the measures in the action plan:

  • Reach the climate goals
  • Reduce dependency on non-renewable raw materials
  • Promote innovation
  • Promote economic development
  • Protect and create jobs
  • Promote sustainable societal transformation.

Science and research

Research, development and innovation (RDI) are mainstays of a successful bioeconomy. Besides technological development, another essential factor in the success of a knowledge-based bioeconomy is to link technological and natural science aspects systematically with economic, socio-political and ethical aspects. This is the only way transformation strategies for reorienting the economic system can be prepared in a way that addresses social policy. Bioeconomic research must therefore be supported by basic research and extend between and across disciplines. It must be characterised by closer collaboration within the research community and follow the principles of open innovation (in German only) and Responsible Science.

The main pillars of science and research are:

  • Instruments relevant to the implementation of RTI
  • Research structures and institutions relevant to the bioeconomy
  • Collaboration platforms and competence centres
  • Industrial research – bio-based industry
  • International networking and collaboration

In recent years, Austria has already positioned itself as a competence centre for the bioeconomy. One third of all Austrian universities are active in the field of bioeconomics. The University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna (BOKU) is an excellent example. It became proactive early on in shaping the international development trend towards bioeconomics and plans to set up a Centre of Bioeconomics in 2019 to serve as a contact point for business and political stakeholders.

Owing to the great significance of RTI, scientific and research experts co-drafted the Bioeconomy Strategy. The working paper “Bioeconomy-RTI Strategy" (written as part of the RTI Strategy of the Federal Government) served as the basis for these efforts.

A scientific monitoring group was formed to assure the quality of the RTI Strategy process. The group was made up of experts active outside Austria (Heike Frühwirth, Biberach University of Applied Sciences (Chair); Daniela Kleinschmit, University of Freiburg; Christian Patermann, former DG Research (Programme Director “Biotechnology, Agriculture & Food”) (Vice-Chair); Detlef Schulze, Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry; Vera Rotter, TU Berlin). They also conducted expert reports and studies on certain topics, e.g. on sustainability monitoring for the Austrian Bioeconomy Strategy.

Successfully implementing the bioeconomy therefore requires adequate RTI instruments covering all innovation phases and readily combinable with each other: Basic research and research infrastructures are essential foundations for this work and are funded by the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research (BMBWF) through the global budget of the universities and non-university research institutions.

Fields of action in science and research (RTI)

Fields of action for which the BMBWF is directly responsible

  • Conduct basic research on resource availability, ecological functions (soil, biodiversity, etc.), site conditions, and social framework conditions for a bio-based economy
  • Carry out (physical, chemical, biological) analysis of material characteristics
  • Assess institutional and legal framework conditions as well as regional and local effects of the bioeconomy
  • Carry out thematically specific, interdisciplinary analyses and evaluations (combining basic research and applied research), taking into account research on the humanities, the social sciences and the cultural sciences
  • Determine the potential for using bio-based materials, taking into account ecological, economic and social effects
  • Systemically evaluate the interactions between climate change and the rise in biomass production and biodiversity
  • Launch thematically specific initiatives at the universities and other tertiary institutions on education and on advanced and continuing education (pursuant to the Austrian National Development Plan for Public Universities)

Education

Along with research and innovation, education is one of the most important drivers of growth in modern economies that are instrumental in determining prosperity, quality of life, competitiveness, and social cohesion. Given the complexity of bioeconomic issues, comprehensive educational offensives must be launched and build especially on the principle of future justice. The Innovation Foundation for Education (in German only) supports the educational institutions that seek to improve educational structures and processes and to further develop them to meet needs. It does this work through the sub-foundations it funds. Elements relevant to the bioeconomy in the foundation’s portfolio of services and funding are designed to be used to implement the Bioeconomy-RTI Strategy.

Contact in the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research (BMBWF):

Karolina Begusch-Pfefferkorn
Department V/4b - Geological Survey of Austria (GBA), Environmental Sciences
Minoritenplatz 5
1010 Vienna
T +43 1 53120 5638
karolina.begusch-pfefferkorn@bmbwf.gv.at

Contact in the Federal Ministry of Sustainability and Tourism (BMNT):

biooekonomie@bmnt.gv.at

Contact in the Federal Ministry of Transport, Innovation and Technology (BMVIT):

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