The European Commission announced last Thursday, during the International Forum on Industrial Biotechnology and Bioeconomy which was held in Rome, the first closing at €82m of the European Circular Bioeconomy Fund (ECBF), the first equity fund focused on the bioeconomy and on circularity in the EU and Horizon 2020 Associated Countries under management of the ECBF Management GmbH. The European Investment Bank (EIB), which committed to invest a total of €100m to the target size of the ECBF of €250m, raised €65m in the first closing, the rest came from private investors.
The new fund provides equity investment to growth-stage bioeconomy and circular bioeconomy companies and projects. The ECBF aims to reduce the current financing gap in this area by mobilising public and private investments to scale up innovative bio-based companies and projects with high potential for innovation and excellence. However, according to industry experts who have long fought for extra money to establish biorefineries, it’s a drop on the hot stone as industrial scale-up of one biorefinery alone is estimated to cost at least €100m. For instance, the Finnish group UPM is investing €550m in an industrial biorefinery at Leuna, Germany. The plant will produce green chemicals from wood.
On occasion of the announcement, two projects were presented. Dutch PeelPioneersturns waste from orange peels into essential oils, flavourings and fragrances, dietary fibre, and animal feed. Prolupin is a producer of high-quality proteins which are turned into dairy substitutes, currently marketed in Germany under the brand Made with Luv®.
EU decision makers honoured its establishment of the fund as a great achievement: “The European Green Deal gives a central role to the circular economy and to food systems in Europe’s transition to a climate-neutral society,” stressed Ambroise Fayolle, EIB Vice-President. The circular bioeconomy is particularly important for developing sustainable and low-carbon chemicals, materials, products and energy, but this will require scaling-up innovation and investments.”
European Research Commissioner Mariya Gabriel added: “The Bioeconomy is essential to address the European Green Deal’s climate and environmental-related challenges. It has the potential to drive the competitiveness, sustainable growth and renewal of our industries and to modernise our primary production systems. To be successful, the European bioeconomy needs to have sustainability and circularity at its heart. But it also needs investments. I am very happy that today the European Commission together with the EIB and private investors, is launching the first dedicated fund to support innovative bioeconomy projects.”
“In a transforming economy – Michael Brandkamp, head of ECBF, added – we invest and partner with ambitious and visionary entrepreneurs to accelerate growth-stage companies. Our fund will drive the scale-up of innovative bioeconomy companies to have a significant impact on sustainability thereby providing attractive returns for its investors.Currently, we see significant interest in our fund which remains open for new investors until August 2021.”
Current surveys confirm that solutions to the exploitation of our planet and climate change have even higher priority to EU citizens than the current COVID-19 pandemic.