Knowledge-Based Bio-Economy 2020. Read the outcomes from a major EC conference.

11th Jan 2011

A conference report on “KBBE towards 2020 has made available on the conference website.

This report sums up the main discussions and findings of the Knowledge Based Bio-Economy (KBBE) towards 2020 conference held in September 2010 during the Belgian Presidency and organized in collaboration with DG Research. The report complements the study on “KBBE in Europe: Achievements and Challenges” which was written as a background document for the conference and which formed the basis for the debate. Both documents will be used by the Commission as input for the new KBBE Strategy and can be downloaded from the conference website.

This conference covered a lot of ground, with the active participation of many of the delegates both in the plenary and parallel sessions. A number of important points emerged, often several times. The presentations and discussions are covered in more detail further on in this report, but it is important first to record the key outcomes, which will serve as a basis for the next phase of Europe’s transition from a reliance on fossil fuels to biomass as a renewable raw material:

• The EU has a core strength in research in the biological sciences and it is important to maintain and build on this.

• On the other hand, we are relatively poor at turning knowledge into commercial products, so this strength does not yet fully translate into economic growth.

• There is a commitment from all EU institutions to build the Bio-Economy, but the high level policy now needs to be carried through in terms of practical, concrete actions which will make a difference to businesses and the way we lead our lives.

• The positive involvement of national and regional governments is also integral to the success of the future Bio-Economy.

• Important new and emerging technologies, in particular biotechnology (including genetic modification) and nanotechnology, must be harnessed to help meet the challenges which remain, and a rational, science-based approach used to regulate them.

• Communication has a key role to play in ensuring that European citizens are properly aware of the importance of agriculture to the future Bio-Economy and that romanticisation of farming is avoided.

• Development of the Bio-Economy is vital to properly address the challenges we face, but products cannot be forced on an unwilling public. Messages must be clear, product quality good and prices affordable.

• Europe has only 10% of the world's population, but represents 25% of global GDP. However, both figures will decline as China, India and other emerging economies grow rapidly. Our challenge is to develop economic sectors which produce sustainable employment in activities which cannot simply be exported.

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