Meet the winners of the Bioregions Open Innovation Challenge

On 3 July 2023, The European Forest Institute (EFI) announced the winners of the Bioregions Open Innovation Challenge, launched in December 2022. The three winners from Finland, Serbia and Spain will receive EUR 7,000 each to further develop their solutions. 

Here are the winners in alphabetical order: 

Biomonitoring station 

The biomonitoring station is a set of sensors and modules to collect, store and disseminate data on environmental stressors disturbing and damaging forest ecosystems. Some examples include monitoring air pollution, detecting early forest fires, and checking unwanted vehicles along forest roads. 

“This biomonitoring station aims to contribute to the integrity of forest-related data. Therefore, foresters become data providers of direct air pollution impact instead of end users. This tool can bring early warnings on agents of negative impact on forests that are closely connected to the effects of climate change,” said Dr Zoran Poduška, Institute of Forestry, Belgrade, Serbia and winner of the Open Innovation Challenge. 

Ozone sensor in a forest. Hand holding it is Zoran Poduška from Serbia and winner of the bioregions open innovation challenge
Ozone sensor from biomonitoring station. Image courtesy of Zoran Poduška.

Förecast 

Förecast is a forest intelligence tool that estimates carbon stock availability in the forest and measures other forest variables using remote sensing (LiDAR + satellite) and artificial intelligence developed by the Spanish company Föra. 

“Carbon is one of the most important forest variables nowadays; estimating forest carbon is of utmost importance to create stable markets through forest knowledge and scientific soundness,” says Iñigo Lizarralde, CEO of Föra. 

5 people in an office. 4 are chatting: 2 men and 2 women. One man is on the desk looking at a laptop screen. Föra team was one of the winners of the bioregions open innovation challenge.
Föra team. Image courtesy of Iñigo Lizarralde.

This carbon estimation tool can be used as input for forest scenarios where wood products and carbon sequestration over their life cycle are included. They also offer change detection for vegetation disturbance, allowing for transparent carbon stock monitoring – assuring the market offers verifiable carbon offsets along the established offsetting period. 

ZertiCarbon app 

ZertiCarbon, a company that offers certified carbon sink solutions using blockchain technology, is dedicated to advancing climate-smart forestry solutions, connecting forest owners with companies interested in neutralising carbon emissions.

Group of eight people in the forest next to a harvesting machine.
ZertiCarbon team. Image courtesy of Panu Torniainen.

By digitising forests and using advanced technologies like drone scanning, LiDAR, machine learning, augmented reality, and AI to analyse the forest’s carbon sinks, the Finnish company ZertiCarbon provides a system where individuals and companies can offset their carbon emissions by purchasing carbon credits. 

ZertiCarbon plans to scale up its solution by focusing on conducting research and developing carbon sink projects in Catalonia and Euskadi. 

According to co-founder and managing director Panu Torniainen, “Access to these regions allows us to establish partnerships with landowners, implement advanced technologies and create transparent and reliable carbon offsetting systems that benefit both the environment and local communities.” 

Quotes from the winners about their solutions have been edited for content and clarity. 

Sign up for the Bioregions Facility InfoFlash to receive the latest news and updates on the next Open Innovation Challenge, and follow the Facility on LinkedIn and Twitter. 

Image by Daniela from Pixabay.

Blond woman wearing glasses. Amila Meskin profile picture

Amila Meškin

Senior Policy Advisor, Eustafor

Amila, who is originally from Bosnia and Herzegovina, came to Brussels from Vienna, where she studied Mountain Forestry at BOKU University. She also holds an MSc in Forestry from the University of Sarajevo, where she did a master’s thesis on EU legislation in the forestry sector. Since 2019, she has been part of EUSTAFOR (European State Forest Association), working today as a Senior policy advisor.

Related session

Forestry Speed Dating 3rd Series

10:05–10:10 | Opening statement from Eustafor

Catalonia’s forestry sector: 44 organisations secure grants for bioeconomy projects

The Biodiversity Foundation has chosen and will fund 56 projects, with 44 originating from Catalonia, aimed at advancing the forest bioeconomy and its role in driving the ecological transition.

The majority of the selected projects come from local authorities, public institutions, and non-profit organisations. Among them are the Pau Costa Foundation (PCF) and the Forest Sciences and Technology Centre of Catalonia (CTFC).

Nearly one-third of these projects will be implemented in municipalities or provinces with a population density of approximately 30 inhabitants/km2, and over half of the projects are dedicated to enhancing the development and diversification of forest management and utilisation.

Read the complete list of Catalan projects here (in Catalan).

Photo by josefina – stock.adobe.com

Bioregions trainee

Bioregions trainee

The Bioregions Facility aims to be a knowledge center of innovation for the regional forest bioeconomy. FIRE-RES project is developing open innovation approaches to speed up innovation uptake to mitigate wildfire risk. The trainee will support activities related to exploitation of innovation in the forest bioeconomy from the Bioregions Facility and in wildfires from the FIRE-RES project, as well as awareness raising activities.

Your tasks will include:

  • Support the organisation of online matchmaking events such as “Forestry Speed Datings”, as well as in-person innovation / pitching days.
  • Support the implementation of activities aimed at speeding up innovation, facilitating the replication, access to market and upscaling of novel solutions in forestry and forest value chains.
  • Support the development of communications activities and content on innovation topics.
  • Other activities as agreed during the traineeship period.

Traineeship conditions:

  • Duty station at EFI HQ in Joensuu, Finland
  • Paid monthly traineeship allowance
  • Duration of traineeship is for a period of 6 months
  • Starting date: April-May 2024

For more information about the post, please contact Siebe Briers, Expert: siebe.briers@efi.int.

Closing date for applications is: 15th March 2024.

Job requirements

  • Academic background in forestry, natural resources, wood industry or similar
  • Interest in innovation
  • Hands-on, proactive, independent
  • Ability to work with Microsoft Office
  • Experience in organising events is an asset

Image by Mongta Studio – stock.adobe.com

  • Deadline: 15 March 2024
  • Type: Traineeship
  • Locatiton: Joensuu, Finland

BOOST4BIOEAST: New HORIZON EUROPE project to boost bioeconomy in Central Eastern European and Baltic countries 

On the 31 of January 2024, the BOOST4BIOEAST project, Boosting the bioeconomy transformation for the BioEast regions, officially kicked off its activities in an online meeting, which will be supporting the BIOEAST Initiative in the next three years. 

The BOOST4BIOEAST project – coordinated by the Hungarian Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (ÖMKi)- aims to empower national stakeholders in the Central Eastern European and Baltic countries for the development of national bioeconomy action plans and to build long-lasting structures and spaces of dialogue for national and macro-regional cooperation.

The 30 partners of the project cover all BIOEAST countries, and countries from Western Europe (Belgium, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Italy, and Spain) have been included to stimulate dialogue and knowledge exchange throughout different regions. The project follows the footsteps of its predecessor, the BIOEASTsUP H2020 project, building upon its outcomes that laid the foundation for macro-regional networking among bioeconomy experts and policymakers through the development of its Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda (SRIA) and 11 Bioeconomy Concept Papers. 

BOOST4BIOEAST Hubs and their role in boosting bioeconomy 

 At the core of the project, there is the need to establish or improve national bioeconomy expert communities(BIOEAST HUBs) as focal points of capacity building and catalysts for stakeholder engagement at the national level for decision-making through participatory processes.

The BIOEAST HUBs will be linked to public administrations, ensuring a direct and efficient link to policymaking that highlights the relevance of the solutions identified by the HUBs’ actions. In the next three years, the HUBs will be engaged in the development of national bioeconomy action plans validated by public administrations and in fostering national bioeconomy innovation ecosystems through cross-sectoral collaboration, capacity building and facilitating access to knowledge and networks to all bioeconomy stakeholders.

Furthermore, at the macro-regional level, they will contribute to the specific strategic areas of the BIOEAST Thematic Working Groups in updating the BIOEAST SRIA of 2022 (developed in the BIOEASTsUP project). 

Enriching knowledge of bioeconomy with a multidimensional assessment and the knowledge platform

BOOST4BIOEAST will undertake a wide mapping of biomass availability, usage, bioeconomy competencies, educational needs, and innovation systems with the goal of promoting knowledge on bioeconomy in the macro-region. Moreover, a BIOEAST Knowledge Platform will be set up to act as a central point to find knowledge materials and relevant information on the bioeconomy.

The Platform will be open and tailor-made to the needs of BIOEAST countries, allowing a wide range of its bioeconomy actors to access, share and store materials in national languages, therefore stimulating active contributions and knowledge sharing in and across each member state. 

Stimulating bioeconomy research and innovation

Given the great importance that innovation and education have in promoting and reinforcing bioeconomy activities, the project also sets the ambitious objective to bring together public and private funders with entrepreneurs and young professionals to provide exposure to business opportunities through a macro-regional Open Innovation Challenge (OIC) and pitching events.

The project will also expand the activities of the Network of Bioeconomy Universities in the BIOEAST (BIOEAST UniNet) to support stronger collaboration between universities and educational institutions of the macro-region in order to integrate bioeconomy into their educational profile.

Moreover, the project will continue to rely on the already existing macro-regional expert-policy networks, the seven Thematic Working Groups (Agroecology & Sustainable Yields, Bioenergy & New Value-Added Materials, Food Systems, Forestry Value Chain, Freshwater-based Economy, Advanced Biobased Materials and Bioeconomy Education), set up by the BIOEASTsUP project to work on priority research topics on the macro-regional level to facilitate more inclusive decision-making and to develop sustainability strategies for TWGs and national HUBs to secure their long-term functioning. 

The Annual Bioeast Bioeconomy Conference

To kick-start the community-building and establishment of the national expert networks, the BOOST4BIOEAST project and the BIOEAST Initiative will organize the Annual BIOEAST Bioeconomy Conference on 6-7 March 2024 in Budapest, Hungary. The theme of the event will be “The Role of National HUBs in National and Macro-regional Bioeconomy Policies and R&I Priorities in the BIOEAST countries”.

The conference aims to bring together a wide range of stakeholders from the BIOEAST countries, coming from all bioeconomy-related fields and with varied professional and academic backgrounds. The Conference will promote information about the latest updates from the BIOEAST Initiative in the context of ongoing European and upcoming EU presidency priorities to provide practical knowledge in order to kick-start and facilitate collaboration and present opportunities in joint programming initiatives. 

More information and the registration for the conference are available here.

Contact information

For further information, please contact Project Coordinator Korinna Varga at korinna.varga@biokutatas.hu

I.D.E.E. Information Day: demonstrations and innovations on generating heat from wood

On 27 and 28 January 2024, the 31st Annual Information Day of the Information and Demonstration Centre on Renewable Energy Network (I.D.E.E.) took place at the Centre Wood in Olsberg, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, where participants learned about efficient heating solutions from wood in the form of pellets, logs or wood chips.

In addition, experts in the field delivered lectures on the topic; presentations showcasing different heating systems and solutions by manufacturers were followed by practical demonstrations, such as those by Wald und Holz NRW, illustrating the preparation of firewood from logs.

Photo by Zigmunds – stock.adobe.com

Innovation for place-based transformations

Climate change, such as more intense and frequent wildfires, floods, and droughts underscores the urgency of addressing these challenges. In addition, biodiversity loss, deforestation, gender and income inequality are increasing the complex situation. These complex issues need to be addressed now. But how to address them?

The answer lies in adopting new tools, mindsets and approaches are required. This report focuses on different strategies and different organisations, sectors, and actors, transcending boundaries. 

The “Innovation for place-based transformations” publication contains three core sections: “Actionbook to build partnership for fair green and digital transitions”, “Collection of practices” and “Tools for action”.

Content: Innovation for place-based transformations

Author(s): Bianchi Guia; Matti Cristian; Pontikakis Dimitrios; Reimeris Ramojus; Haegeman Karel Herman; Miedzinski Michal; Sillero Illanes Carmen; Mifsud Solange; Sasso Simone; Bol Erica; Marques Santos Anabela; Andreoni Antonio; Janssen Matthijs; Saublens Christian; Stefanov Ruslan; Tolias Yannis

Publisher: Publications Office of the European Union

Year: 2024

Föra

Föra: AI and remote-sensing tool that gauges forest carbon stock and vegetation disturbances with multiple modules

Föra Forest Technologies’ tool, Förecast, is a forest intelligence tool that estimates the carbon stock available in the forest and measures other forest variables using remote sensing and artificial intelligence developed by Föra. Förecast leverages artificial intelligence and remote sensing to assess carbon stock in forests and offers transparent monitoring of vegetation disturbances. The tool comprises four modules: traditional inventory, LiDAR inventory, satellite and LiDAR integration, and forest simulations. Föra is among the winners of the Bioregions Open Innovation Challenge launched in 2022 and secured second place in the 2020 ESA Digital Twin Earth Challenge.

Content: Föra factsheet from Unlocking Forest Carbon Markets – Event 4 of the Forestry Speed Dating 3rd Series

Publisher: Bioregions Facility

Year: 2024

Learn more

Zerti Carbon

Zerti Carbon: Cutting-edge technology for climate-smart forestry, allowing users to offset emissions

The Zerti Carbon app provides detailed data to landowners about tree growth and carbon capture, ensuring transparent traceability. By digitising forests and utilising advanced technologies such as drone scanning, LiDAR, machine learning, augmented reality, and AI to analyse the forest’s carbon sinks, the app establishes a system where individuals and companies can offset their carbon emissions by purchasing carbon credits. Zerti Carbon is one of the winners of the Bioregions Open Innovation Challenge launched in 2022.

Content: Zerti Carbon factsheet from Unlocking Forest Carbon Markets – Event 4 of the Forestry Speed Dating 3rd Series

Publisher: Bioregions Facility

Year: 2024

Learn more

Catalan Government creates climate credit system for CO2 absorption

The government of Catalonia will approve the creation of a system to certify, trace and market locally issued climate credits that will allow the offsetting of greenhouse gas emissions within the region for the benefit of rural areas. 

The first credits to be issued and marketed will be related to forests and forestry. They will be based on a holistic conception of forest management, considering multiple ecosystem services and facilitating investments in forest nature-based solutions to compensate for the carbon and water footprints of companies, local entities, and other organisations.  

The Catalan Government published a press release on 1 December 2023 explaining their plans to develop carbon credits for agricultural land and costal and marine habitats. In the future, climate credits generated in agriculture, soil management, and the restoration of coastal and marine habitats will be included in the system.

Read the full article in Catalan here

Featured image Minister Mascort, attending to the media at COP28 / Govern.cat

Jury’s selection announced: 50 innovative wildfire solutions enter the next phase of the FIRE-RES Open Innovation Challenge 

Today, 24 January 2024, the FIRE-RES consortium announces its Open Innovation Challenge (OIC) list of selected innovations. These innovations will receive tailored in-kind acceleration support and mentorship to develop into fully implemented products and processes that help address the risks posed by wildfires in Europe and beyond.

50 solutions – from early idea innovations to in-market solutions, from data-driven technology and advanced firefighting equipment to educational methodologies and community engagement processes, from different parts of Europe, South America, and the U.S., and covering risks before, during and after wildfire events – have been selected to participate in the FIRE-RES Innovation Acceleration Programme. In addition to access to training materials and events as well as contacts brokerage opportunities, the selected solutions will be invited to enter a competitive application process for financial support for demonstration or piloting activities and the opportunity to test their solution in the realistic environments of one of the project’s Living Labs.  

The jury consisted of representatives from the consortium (ForestWISE, INESC TEC, CTFC, and EFI). Practitioners from a number of FIRE-RES Living Labs acted as advisors to the jury.

A wide variety of solutions go forward to receive acceleration support 

As expected, a large proportion of the solutions centre around technology for the purpose of gathering data, processing it into information, facilitating access to knowledge and enabling learning over time.  

Another common type of solution involves focusing on firefighting equipment with a view to improving materials, effectiveness and safety, leveraging new engineering possibilities, and increasing compatibility and connectivity across geographical contexts.

Innovative formats and ideas for training frontline operators form another group among the selected innovations.

Finally, a good number of the selected innovations target communities in fire-prone locations and beyond. These aim for improved preparation, response and recovery in the future. It is, therefore, not surprising that some of them focus on engaging young people in particular.  

Stay in touch with FIRE-RES 

For regular updates as the Open Innovation Challenge progresses, sign up for the FIRE-RES Newsletter here

If you have questions about the FIRE-RES Innovation Acceleration Programme, please contact oic@fire-res.eu

Follow us on social media: X, LinkedIn and Facebook

The project leading to this application has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 101037419.

FIRE-RES Open Innovation Challenge supporters

Exploring the latest innovations in forest carbon markets

Carbon markets play a crucial role in the complex network of climate solutions; they facilitate the exchange of carbon credit emissions permits and create incentives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These markets, whether regulated by governing bodies or projects aiming to reduce emissions, create dynamic environments where environmental responsibility and economic incentives intersect. 

Change through forest carbon markets 

Carbon farming – approach to sustainable land management – employs reforestation, afforestation, forest and peatland restoration, and agroforestry to capture carbon. This practice addresses climate change mitigation and generates carbon credits, known as carbon offsets

These credits represent the CO2 captured and stored in the forest, with the added benefit of being exchangeable within carbon markets. Institutions, organisations, and individuals can buy these credits to offset carbon emissions.  

The social benefit is that communities, farmers, and landowners become integral market players; they can earn income from sustainable land management practices that enhance carbon sequestration. This synergy between incentives and environmental stewardship encourages adopting sustainable practices.

Challenges and opportunities 

White drone flying near a forest
Drones, for example, can be used to collect data for forest monitoring and mapping tree inventory. Photo by Dmytro Titov – stock.adobe.com

As the market for carbon credits increases, some challenges need to be addressed. For example, avoid double counting emissions reductions and removals, and ensure that any reduction in emissions or increase in carbon sequestration occurs because of the sale of carbon credits.

These challenges require innovation and implementation of technologies to improve transparency and effectiveness across the value chain. Besides assisting in developing the carbon market, digital technologies also play a key role in inventory management, monitoring, reporting, and carbon monetisation.

Forestry Speed Dating 

unlocking forest carbon markets title

Bioregions’ Forestry Speed Dating (FSD) series, aiming to bring this relevant topic to the table, has the theme Unlocking forest carbon markets for its third series of the FSD – bringing innovators such as Skoog, Treemetrics, CarbonStack, CO2Offset, Ecobase, Arbonics, Kanop, Xilva, Föra, Zerti Carbon, CollectiveCrunch, Grupo Sylvestris, Land Life and other companies, start-ups and public initiatives to present their innovation and contribution to fight climate change. 

The series provides a platform for individuals and organisations to share knowledge, collaborate and foster sustainable growth in the forestry industry and the bioeconomy. 

Watch previous sessions, register for our fifth event on 1 February 2024, and stay tuned for new events to attend

References 

What are carbon markets and why are they important? 

International carbon market 

What You Should Know About Carbon Markets 

Carbon farming explained: the pros, the cons and the EU’s plans 

Carbon markets: the challenges and opportunities

Featured image by okawa – stock.adobe.com

Francisco M. Martínez Sanz

Co-founder and technical director

Forest Engineer with more than 24 years of experience Francisco Martínez Sanz worked on a very diverse number of forestry and environmental projects, mainly oriented to forest landscape restoration and biomass until he founded in 2013 GRUPO SYLVESTRIS with Eng. Enrique Enciso. SYLVESTRIS was launched with a highlighted social vision and soonly became the leader in the development and execution of CO2 absorption projects registered on the Spanish Office of Climate Change (OECC) Registry.
Eng. Francisco Martínez has personally managed on the field the works of more than 1,000 ha, and planned the reforestation about 7,000 ha in more than 30 different locations in Spain but in Portugal, France, Italy, Honduras and Lebanon too. Currently he is working on SYLVESTRIS growth by implementing new technologies and social innovations to face the increasing of the offsetting demand from companies that are planning to be carbon neutral.
His career as a social entrepreneur has been awarded by some of the most prestigious programs supporting social impact in Spain, what promoted REPSOL (Spanish Oil&Gas company) Foundation and HISPASAT (Spanish satellites company) entered into SYLVESTRIS shareholding.

Related session

Forestry Speed Dating 3rd Series

10:45–11:05 | Grupo Sylvestris presentation and Q&A