“It’s time to deliver!” This is, extremely briefly, the message that comes from the second edition of the Bioeconomy Investment Summit, which was held in Helsinki last Thursday, December 14. In this invitation made at the opening of the summit by the former Swedish prime minister, Göran Persson, it can be synthesized the will of over 300 summit participants to move rapidly towards the creation of new markets for the bioeconomy and to accelerate the transition to a new, more sustainable economy, which finally could leave the GDP behind as an indicator of welfare of the countries. “From the sustainable perspective, GDP is a misleading measure of success”, said Robert Costanza, professor at the Australian National University.
It was a very well organized edition by the European Forest Institute led by Marc Palahí that of Helsinki, which gives us, among other things, an increased protagonism of the Scandinavian countries, which strongly rely on their forests to be leaders in the European and world bioeconomy. Mika Lintilä, minister of Economic Affairs, Finland, stated that “the bioeconomy is at the heart of the country’s growth strategy. Our aim is to push it – from now till 2025 – to € 100 billion in terms of output value while creating 100,000 new jobs”.
All of this in the total absence of European Commissioners. It’s true – it was shared again in Helsinki – “we are living in a time of accelerated change and unprecedented global challenges. However, the 21st century also offers unprecedented opportunities. The circular and sustainable bioeconomy is one of them, but unfortunately its development is threatened by a major obstacle: the privileged position enjoyed by the fossil-based economy, that benefits from different types of subsidies and generates environmental costs that are not absorbed by the markets in any way”.
Facing this operating framework, the development of the bioeconomy cannot be left to the markets and technology alone. Decoupling growth from environmental degradation requires a major shift towards a low-carbon, renewable and resource-efficient society that has a sustainable economy. Such a shift requires political leadership, vision and strategic action, said many speakers at the Summit.
“There is still – said Marcus Wallenberg at SEB, a leading Nordic financial services group – a general view that we have to choose between sustainability and economic growth. I believe we can have both”.
According to Esko Aho, former prime minister of Finland, “we need more fundings for bioeconomy investments. To be efficient we need strong R&D investments, new skills and talents, smart regulations enabling new products to come rapidly to the market, digitalization, public procurement, startups, consumer orientation.
The Summit was also an opportunity to listen to the voice of the protagonists of the European bioeconomy and beyond. Among the companies present with their own speakers the Italian Novamont, the German Brain AG, the Portuguese SilicoLife and the New Zealand/American LanzaTech. The speech of its CEO, Jennifer Holmgren, was one of the most applauded by the audience.
“Think big, think progressive, because this is the field of the future”, stated Alexander Stubb, former prime minister of Finland and current Vice President of the European Investment Bank.
“We have talked so much about bioeconomy. We now need to take the next step forward!, said Göran Persson. If the first edition of the summit, held in Brussels in November 2015, had left Commissioner Moedas’ statement “to move the bioeconomy from niche to norm”, now “it’s (really) time to deliver!”.