Boosting innovation in European bioeconomy

Originally published on Open access government

New projects to drive innovation within the European bioeconomy being funded by the CBE JU are outlined here

The Circular Bio-based Europe Joint Undertaking (CBE JU), a €2 billion public-private partnership advancing competitive circular bio-based industries in Europe, has signed its first 21 grant agreements this year.

Two hundred ninety-three beneficiaries from 27 countries will receive €116 million in funding to develop new bio-based products and materials, first-of-their-kind production facilities, and innovative processes.

The new projects will boost the competitiveness and increase the resilience of Europe’s bio-based economy by using often-underutilised resources to produce consumer products and industrial solutions to replace fossil-based ones. This will reduce the EU’s reliance on strategic imports and create new value chains, business opportunities, and green jobs, particularly in rural areas.

Two new biorefineries for high-value products

Two new flagship projects will set up innovative industrial biorefineries to support the development of the European bio-based economy, focusing on the food and feed sectors.

SUSTAINEXT

SUSTAINEXT(1) will turn an existing production plant into a circular biorefinery that will produce healthy plant- based extracts for food, food supplements, animal feed, fertiliser, cosmetics, and chemicals. The biorefinery will create new jobs in Extremadura, a rural region of Spain, and bring value to waste from food industries.

The proposed industrial model boasts the integration of twelve value chains that span from primary producers to end-users. “The model is easily replicable, adaptable to feedstocks of varying types and quality and able to run on renewable energy”, highlighted the Project Coordinator José María Pinilla.(1)

SYLPLANT

SYLPLANT(2) will build a plant near Lyon, France, producing 10,000 tonnes of protein-rich food and feed ingredients annually. The project will contribute to replacing animal proteins and other high-carbon-footprint plant-based protein sources, such as soy, with novel high-quality ingredients deriving from agricultural and forestry residues, leading to healthier and more sustainable diets for animals and humans.

The project will develop several innovative, nutritious, sustainable food products, pet food, and fish farming feed prototypes containing the ingredient. The CBE JU- funded SYLPLANT project “will draw up a roadmap to build even larger plants, making the vision of creating food from underused local resources a reality,” said the Project Coordinator Marc Chevrel.(2)

Advancing green solutions for many bioeconomy sectors

CBE JU funding will also make possible the development of products and applications for a range of other sectors, including transport, construction, packaging, and textiles. Among the resources that will be used are agricultural residues, paper production side-streams and municipal solid waste, terrestrial and aquatic plants, and wood residues.

Actions range from cultivating biomass on marginal land to produce bio-based fibres and soil revitalisation to capturing CO2 emissions from wastewater treatment plants and transforming them into high-performance plastics.

Some examples of the new projects include:

ROBOCOOP-EU and BRILIAN

ROBOCOOP-EU(3) and BRILIAN(4), with €4.7 million and €4.8 million in funding, respectively, will tap into agricultural waste streams to develop new cooperative regional business models. This will offer new commercial opportunities in rural areas, leading to job creation and a more diverse bio-based product portfolio.

A university and a research centre lead the projects, integrating primary producers and commercial companies, to diversify farmers’ sources of income and reduce economic risks.

SynoProtein

SynoProtein(5) has been granted €5 million to formulate a sustainable process that will convert residue from sawmills into single-cell proteins for fish feed and produce biochar for animal feed while capturing CO2.

Suppose this ground-breaking circular system developed by a Danish small business is proven effective. In that case, it has the potential to recover 160,000 tonnes of forestry residue and produce 120,000 tonnes of fish and animal feed annually. This could be valued at €175 million if implemented on a large scale.(5)

REDYSIGN

REDYSIGN(6) will use €4.4 million of CBE JU funding to create wood-based fresh meat packaging containing sensors to prevent premature food spoilage and an efficient recycling process. The project consortium has established collaborations between organisations from technological companies to supermarket chains to develop a viable, bio-based, circular substitute for fresh meat packaging.(6)

THERMOFIRE

THERMOFIRE(7) has been awarded approximately €4.5 million to produce bio-based, flame-retardant materials for the automotive, aerospace and textile sectors using feedstocks such as cellulose and flax. The materials will be lighter and less expensive than their fossil-based counterparts while maintaining the performance levels required in demanding conditions.

In economic terms, the CBE JU-funded THERMOFIRE project aims to lower the cost of flame-retardant materials by shortening production times and increasing the market share of bio-based composites.(7)

Take a look at all the new projects and discover how CBE JU funding is advancing a competitive European bioeconomy.

Ground-breaking production at various scales

The new CBE JU-funded projects are split into four actions, encompassing activities and tasks ranging from establishing ground-breaking production facilities to developing coordination and support systems.

  • Two Flagship Innovation Actions will receive €28 million to build first-of-their-kind industrial-scale facilities.
  • Eight Innovation Actions will obtain €41 million to establish demonstration-scale production systems and business models.
  • Ten Research and Innovation Actions will receive
    €44 million to develop new materials, products and ingredients from renewable and biological resources.
  • One Coordination and Support Action has been granted €2.9 million to develop digital monitoring tools to assess bio-based industrial systems’ environmental and social impact.

Innovation in European bioeconomy

CBE JU Acting Executive Director Nicoló Giacomuzzi-Moore said: “I am confident that these
new projects will make a vital contribution to advancing the bio-based sector in Europe and driving forward the transition to a sustainable, resource-efficient and circular bio-based economy.

I am also very pleased that, with these grant agreements, we can strengthen some European bioeconomy areas, such as producing bio-based alternative food and feed ingredients, flame-retardant materials, smart food packaging, and alternative bio-based platform chemicals.

Lastly, I would like to highlight the high SME participation in the CBE JU projects – around 40% of all participants – which confirms the important role of SMEs in driving innovation to the market in the bio-based sector.”

References

  1. https://www.cbe.europa.eu/projects/sustainext
  2. https://www.cbe.europa.eu/projects/sylplant
  3. https://www.cbe.europa.eu/projects/robocoop-eu
  4. https://www.cbe.europa.eu/projects/brilian
  5. https://www.cbe.europa.eu/projects/synoprotein
  6. https://www.cbe.europa.eu/projects/redysign
  7. https://www.cbe.europa.eu/projects/thermofire

Mass Timber Insurance Playbook

The objective of the Mass Timber Insurance Playbook is to enable a collaborative approach between construction teams and insurers, opening the door to more equitable insurance for mass timber buildings.

Mass timber has the potential to reduce the embodied impact of construction versus more conventional materials such as concrete and steel. It is strong and light, and as a natural material, has a strong aesthetic appeal. But, especially since the Grenfell disaster, mass timber projects have sometimes faced difficulty securing insurance.

The Mass Timber Insurance Playbook is a direct response to the challenges developers have faced, providing guidance for all parties involved in arranging insurance – for both development and operation of projects.

The Playbook was written by insurance and building resilience specialists, to help stakeholders in the insurance and construction industries to understand each other’s priorities and language. The aim is to enable constructive communication, to help overcome gaps in understanding that sometimes hold back mass timber construction.

Content: Mass TImber insurance Playbook

Publisher: The Alliance for Sustainable Building Products (ASBP)

Year: 2023

Circularity concepts in wood construction

Wood construction has many advantages over other building constructions: bio-based resource, carbon-storing, thermal insulation, human health and well-being. Innovative wood products provide less manufacturing waste, low carbon-emission alternatives and store massive quantities of carbon while new technologies speed construction processes, promote energy efficiency and minimize waste.

This publication presents the benefits of wood as a construction material and discusses practices applied in the wood construction sector from the perspective of circularity, sustainability and climate change mitigation. It analyses how circularity concepts can be applied in the construction industry using different construction methods and at different stages of value chains.

Content: Circular concept in wood construction

Publisher(s): Joint UNECE/FAO Forestry and Timber Section in Geneva and at FAO in Rome

Year: 2023

Globally unique research for better fuel pellets

800 tonnes of sawdust was recently turned into fuel pellets in a globally unique test run in Sweden. That was part of a pellet research project that is being carried out on a large scale to investigate differences in quality between different raw material compositions.

Originally published on Paper Province.

By Malin Hildén

Testings are a cheap and environmentally friendly energy source made from dried and compacted sawdust from spruce and pine. Therefore, they are a valuable and important component in the transition to a fossil-free society.

In order to optimize the production and storage of pellets, a research study is now investigating whether the pellet quality is affected by the origin of the sawdust: the heartwood (coarse timber) or the sapwood (small timber).

Different drying temperatures and types of sawdust

What the researchers are investigating is whether the handling of the raw materials can contribute to making the pellets more resource-efficient. The method includes studying how low- and high-temperature drying, in combination with small and coarse timber, affects the physical properties and long-term storage.

One problem when storing fuel pellets is that they can generate spontaneous heating, forming flammable and toxic gases. The researchers aim to reduce this increased fire hazard.

Globally unique test run

In order to examine the improvement opportunities in the context of fuel pellets, some 800 tonnes of fresh small and coarse timber from pine was transported to the pellet plant of power company Härjeåns Energi in the Swedish town of Sveg. That is where the impressive test run took place.

“This is huge. Such large-scale research trials aren’t carried out anywhere else in the world. Normally, you’d go to a lab and do smaller runs,” says Magnus Persson, who is an innovation advisor and project manager at Paper Province.

What makes this volume possible is the collaboration between academia, research and industry.

“If this turns out well, it’s going to have an impact on the entire industry: everyone will be able to learn and benefit from it.”

Previous tests

The test run was the second of two major ones. The first one, completed last autumn, involved low-temperature drying. This time, however, a high-temperature dryer was used.

“The test run came out well, and now we’ll continue the measurements and analyses in order to determine the outcome,” says Michael Finell of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.

He is the project manager for InnoPels, the project where the research is conducted. It is funded by Vinnova, with the participation of Karlstad University, Paper Province, Solör Bioenergi Pellets AB, Härjeåns Energi AB and Bergkvist Siljan Skog AB.

Photo by Paper Province.

Emil Mattsson, Härjeåns, Stefan Frodeson, Karlstad University, Michael Finell, SLU, Magnus Persson, Paper Province and Workson Siwale, SLU.

What can Google Image search results tell us about human-forest relationships?

While public perception research on forests often uses surveys and questionnaires as data collection methods, there are many other ways to inquire about how society perceives and interacts with them. These include repurposing online and social media data to understand what forests mean to people and how widely used digital platforms portray relationships between people and forests.   

Originally published on the Resilience blog.

By Rina Tsubaki

For the past few years, EFI has been experimenting with research approaches that repurpose born-digital data from the web and social media in collaboration with digital researchers from the Public Data LabKing’s College London, and DensityDesign Lab in Milan.  Alongside our project Out of the Flames, which looked at online engagement around the Amazon rainforest fires in 2019, we’ve also explored public issues and narratives around the UN COP27 Climate Conference and forest restoration through Twitter hashtags and images and YouTube videos. Yet, there are many other interesting platforms to take a closer look at, including Google, the most used search engine with over 86% global market share.  

So, what do Google search results tell us about human-forest relationships? How do they portray our connections with forests? 

As part of exploratory research in support of the SUPERB forest restoration project, a student group from the Master’s Degree in Communication Design at Politecnico di Milano, led by Gabriele Colombo (King’s College London / DensityDesign), looked at Google Images showing different life cycle stages of reforestation and other related activities (read about the course here). Using 40 keywords such as tree planting, afforestation and forest and land restoration, the group collected and manually categorised 1200 images, resulting in a beautiful digital archive called ‘Plant Forward’.

Exploring the Plant Forward image collection, it is possible to draw lines between human presence and absence in different forest lifecycle phases. The image collections under ‘wasteland’ and ‘forests’ show almost no human presence.  Although some landscapes in the images indirectly depict signs of human activities, such as roads and crop fields, human actors rarely appear in these image sets.  

Instead, human actors are visible in other lifecycle stages such as ‘sapling’.  Interestingly, these images portraying human involvement show human actors not only “regenerating” but also “cutting down” forests. 

When zooming into the images with human actors, one notices different ways people associate with forests. For example, not just people digging the soil and planting trees can be seen in these images, but also those sheltering, touching, measuring, and marking trees, indicating that forests are something people manage and care for. In addition, many images showing human hands holding or planting seedlings and saplings appear to be generic stock images used in different contexts. For example, there is a photoshopped image of a seedling growing inside a light bulb. We find image stamps and company logos, giving a sense of the commercial activities revolving around forests and forest imagery. 

Finally, we find images which suggest a diversity of people, communities and activities engaging with forests. Not only foresters and other professional practitioners are captured, but so are local communities, school children, families, women and religious groups, businessmen and military officials in different parts of the world.  

Repurposing search engine outputs can help us understand how online devices are involved in producing, framing and ordering different kinds of visual narratives about forests and human-forest relationships. You are invited to explore the Plant Forward image collections to learn more about how relations between people and forests are portrayed in one of the world’s most widely used entry points to the web. We are curious to hear what

Image: Plant Forward

Woodworking industries in European regions: LIGNA 23 workshop insights

On 18 May 2023, the Bioregions Facility hosted a workshop called Woodworking Industries in European Regions: Current Situation, Development Pathways and Investment Trends at LIGNA 2023 in Hanover, Germany.

Oskar Azkarate, Baskegur, at LIGNA 2023.

The General Director of Baskegur, Oskar Azkarate, emphasised the significance of a regional bioeconomy strategy, such as the Strategic Plan for Timber in the Basque Country (PEMA in Spanish) and Basque Circular Forest-based Bioeconomy Strategy. These initiatives aim to establish a comprehensive framework for advancing forestry in the region. To illustrate, the Basque Country Forest Bioeconomy Profile developed by the Bioregions Facility provides an overview of the regional bioeconomy innovation ecosystem in the Basque Country.

Next, Martin Schwarz from Wald und Holz in North Rhine-Westphalia shared his insights. In a region with a population of approximately 18 million, wood serves as the primary construction material. With the growing need for housing and apartments in urban areas, there has been a rising demand for wooden materials in urban construction, building modernisation, refurbishment and social housing projects. The legislation now permits wooden multi-storey buildings of up to eight stories, essential for promoting sustainable development in the construction sector and reducing carbon footprint.

Developing a bioeconomy strategy and the support provided by municipalities in utilising wood is essential for the forestry sector. However, the question arises: how can we give timber a higher value? Inazio Martinez, a researcher at EFI and coordinator of the Bioregions Facility, asked Manuel García Barbero, an architect and Wood Construction Manager at CESEFOR, regarding Castilla y Léon’s approach to increasing the value of its timber.

Inazio Martinez, Bioregions Facility, and Manuel García Barbero, CESEFOR, at LIGNA 2023

“In Spain, we have forest fires, and the problem is probably the abandonment of forests. It’s been demonstrated that things that are valued are better cared for,” stated Mr Barbero. While many believe forests should be left untouched, Spain’s forests require a different perspective, as they thrive through active management. Society has adopted the notion that forests should no longer be managed. Still, this approach leads to imbalances and problems — fire plays a natural role in forests by clearing brush and eliminating dead trees, for instance.

Eduard Correal Mòdol, representing the Forest Science and Technology Centre of Catalonia, concluded the discussion by presenting how forests have been managed in Catalonia, which bears similarities to those of Castilla y León. With over 60% of the region’s land covered by forests, Catalonia faces an increasing threat from wildfires as climate change advances in Spain. It is imperative to manage forests and fires effectively while educating the public about their natural occurrence.

Participating in LIGNA has been invaluable in acquiring knowledge about sustainable wood processing practices and discovering how they can be incorporated into our work at the Bioregions Facility.

Images: Rodrigo Mendes

Seeing the wood in the forests

Humanity is becoming too big for our planet. After relying on a fossil-based economy for 200 years, we are threatening to reach a tipping point, crossing the resilience boundaries of our world. Using the words of Greta Thunberg – how dare you continue like this! – it is time for transformational action.

Award for the project “Building with wood” – development of a model and competence region in South Westphalia

On December 7, 2022, the REGIONALE 25 project “Building with wood” – development of a model and competence region in South Westphalia, has been awarded with the second star. The project is an important part of the efforts of South Westphalia to develop sustainable and complementary projects to anchor resource-saving construction in the region.

The project is aimed at forest owners, the wood processing industry, companies in the wood construction and carpentry trades as well as planners, private and public builders. From the headquarters of Zentrum HOLZ in Olsberg, Germany, they are to be brought together in a network to share knowledge about new technologies and innovations in timber construction and to build up expertise. And at the same time, to initiate and make visible good examples in South Westphalia. This applies to the use of wood in industrial and commercial buildings as well as in public and private buildings.

Source: Wald und Holz NRW

Photo: PK-Media Consulting

Bioregions Open Innovation Challenge 2022 launched!

Submit a solution to our forest bioeconomy challenges and make chance to win a grant for developing your idea!

Bioregions Open innovation Challenges provide a framework to identify and support the development and scaling-up of innovative solutions (technologies, business ideas, etc.) to pressing challenges in forests management and the forest bioeconomy. Its final objective is to facilitate sustainable transitions in European regions putting into value the full range of ecosystem services provided by forests. The Bioregions Open Innovation Challenge 2022 focuses on following challenges:

• Carbon Farming & Climate-Smart Forestry

• Forest Monitoring, Early Warning and Response

• Unleash the potential of Non-Wood Forest Products

5th Edition of the Forest Innovation Workshop “The role of innovation in managing new challenges in the forest-based sector at regional level in the EU”

Started in 2014 as a joint initiative of European regions and forest sector organizations, the 5th edition of the European Forest Innovation Workshop devoted to Inform-Prioritize-Collaborate: Cooperation of Regions on Innovation in Forest Management, Use of Wood and Forest-related Services, has taken place on 18 January 2023 (full-day workshop) at the Representation of the Free State of Bavaria to the European Union in Brussels.

The role of innovation in managing new challenges in the forest-based sector at regional level in the EU.

Documentation of Plenary and Break-out Sessions

Main objectives of the event

  • Understanding the new framework for regional innovation policies addressing the forest-based sector in Europe
  • Presenting relevant innovations from different European regions that are helping address key European policy ambitions
  • Connecting experts and practitioners to speed up knowledge flows
  • Encourage public and private collaboration at EU and regional levels to foster innovation

Download the programme

Participant list

Photos from the event

Dissemination letter

Themes

The event provided an opportunity to learn about the most recent updates on European initiatives and connect with a selection of innovative cases, presented during the 2 rounds of breakout sessions.

The themes addressed in the workshop are:

  1. Carbon market, bioeconomy, climate smart forestry and rural development
  2. Forest degradation and nature restoration
  3. Ecosystem services and better integration in forest management

Digitalization and social innovation are cross-cutting aspects contributing to the above themes.

Presentations

Plenary

Introduction to Regional Authorities Round-Table Discussion on priorities for innovation

Breakout Table 1: Carbon Market, Bioeconomy, Climate Smart Forestry and Rural Development

Breakout Table 2: Forest Degradation and Nature Restoration

Breakout Table 3: Provision of Ecosystem Services

Past editions

Wood in Construction – 25 cases of Nordic Good Practice

Building with wood has an untapped potential to transform the construction industry and create the next generation of low-carbon and healthy buildings. The Nordics, with an abundance of sustainably managed forest resources and a long history of building in wood, are well placed to lead in this construction revolution. Across the wood in construction value chain, from forestry and processing, through production and design, to construction and decommission, the Nordic region is innovating to build bigger and more sustainably with wood than ever before.

This publication features 25 Nordic cases from across the value chain working with wood in exciting and innovative ways. These projects demonstrate the benefits and drivers for building with wood, and provide inspiration for architects, land managers, city planners, designers, suppliers and many more. The 25 cases point to five trends within Nordic wood in construction that paint a picture of where the industry is headed: 1) multifunctionality; 2) saving time and costs; 3) investing in scalability; 4) pushing the boundaries; and 5) circular design.

The team behind this report – the Nordic Wood in Construction Secretariat – is an initiative commissioned by the Nordic Council of Ministers and the Swedish Government, and hosted by EIT Climate-KIC. The secretariat’s aim is to support and accelerate the use of wood in Nordic construction through a portfolio of projects, fostering greater dialogue, knowledge-sharing and collaboration between stakeholders from the private sector, public sector, and academia.

Read the publication