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Bioeconomy for resilient post-COVID economies

Rozakis Stylianos, Juvančič, Luka, Kovacs Barna

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Year 2022
Type of Item Editorial
Bibliographic Citation S. Rozakis, L. Juvančič, and B. Kovacs, “Bioeconomy for resilient post-COVID economies,” Energies, vol. 15, no. 8, Apr. 2022, doi: 10.3390/en15082958.
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In the creation of this Special Issue, the editors identified circular bioeconomy, i.e., sustainable optimization of the value of biomass through its cascading use, as the key engine of the future economic growth of post-COVID economic recovery. The cascading use of biomass is one of the key principles of sustainable bioeconomy. It provides for the energy- and material-efficient use of biomass, as well as a larger number of short chain transactions between economic entities. The multiplicative impact on the national economy is reflected in a greater accumulation of revenues (and consequently investments, income, as well as tax revenues) and in a larger employment. As bioeconomy stakeholders are most often located in rural areas, the growth of bioeconomy is also beneficial for the economic convergence between urban and rural areas. Furthermore, the bioeconomy contributes to the circular economy, more specifically to the sustainable carbon cycles of biomass production and processing, as it promotes the sustainable and efficient exploitation of renewable resources in closed material and energy loops substituting for fossil-based products.More specifically, the call for papers outlined the transition to the biomass-based economy, which marks a new paradigm in the organization of business processes. By-products and residues are thus becoming raw materials in the existing optimized or new value chains. This transition is enabled by new knowledge and technologies for converting biomass into different products, interconnected in cascade and circular (in terms of energy and material) production cycles. Such organization of business processes brings numerous economic, social, and environmental benefits. The constantly improving efficiency of biorefining techniques and the inclusion of the resulting platform chemicals for bio-based materials allow entry into new value chains (e.g., health, smart packaging) and the achievement of significantly higher added value than the current methods of biomass processing. The transition to a circular bioeconomy needs to be environmentally sound, socially accepted, and cost competitive. None of these three dimensions should be independently maximized, and optimal compromises should be sought instead.The European policymakers recognized the above challenges. Europe aims to be the first climate-neutral continent by becoming a modern, resource-efficient economy, thus the European Green Deal puts biomass in a central role. All EU strategies proposed under this priority are counting on sustainable biomass valorization. Moreover, the recovery plan in the post-COVID-19 period is meant to support transformative growth for the economies to attain resilience. The consecutive shocks to the European economy (ex. migration, COVID, energy crises) give the issue of bioeconomy a new dimension:- In the wake of aggravated conditions in the commodity markets (natural resources, agricultural commodities, fossil fuels), the strategic importance of sufficient biomass mobilization, on the other hand,- the efficient and sustainable use of it amplified the importance of biomass as a sustainable resource for renewable carbon, implicitly as an energy source, contributing to de-fossilization of the economies.The central and eastern European (CEE) initiative for knowledge-based agriculture, aquaculture, and forestry in bioeconomy, the so-called BIOEAST initiative, set the vision to develop sustainable circular bioeconomies. The intergovernmental cooperation between 11 CEE countries aims to help the ministries in forming policies and building networks to cooperate better at the national, macro-regional, and European level. Implicitly, this is in order to help the countries better valorize their natural resources and to reach the climate and environmental targets set at the EU level.Nine papers included in this Special Issue contribute to the debate on the bioeconomy transition in the post-COVID-19 setting. They reveal pathways and challenges associated with this transition. The first group of papers is assessing the potentials and relative significance of bioeconomy in the post-COVID economic recovery. This is followed by a group of four papers that are assessing technical or economic feasibility of knowledge-intensive biobased applications at the industrial, or regional, scale. The Special Issue is rounded off with two contributions that draw attention to the (often overlooked) role of biotechnology and the commercialization-oriented innovation in the mainstreaming of the economy. Contributions in this Special Issue have a clear territorial focus, as seven of them address specific challenges in the region of central and eastern Europe (CEE), which is often considered as the lagging region of Europe in terms of bioeconomy deployment.

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