What’s the economic impact of the bioeconomy in Catalonia?

The bioeconomy sector in Catalonia is a significant contributor to the region’s economy. It encompasses a range of industries, including agriculture, food processing, energy, and chemicals, that use renewable biological resources to produce goods. These sectors employ around 622,700 people in Spain (the average for 2016–2021), which represents 17.24% of the total employed population in Catalonia.

What’s bioeconomy?

Bioeconomy is an economic model that uses renewable biological resources to produce food, energy, chemicals, textiles, and other bio-based products that we depend upon. The Bioeconomy has emerged as a model aiming to find efficient resource utilisation methods, reduce reliance on non-renewable resources, and prevent resource depletion.

It is important to understand the impact of the bioeconomy. This allows researchers, policymakers, and other key stakeholders to make informed decisions about investments, regulations, and support mechanisms, for example.

How to quantify its impact?

To quantify the impact of bioeconomy in Catalonia, the Department of Climate Action, Food and Rural Agenda has commissioned the Center for Research in Agrifood Economics and Development (CREDA-UPC-IRTA) to calculate the impact based on output and input-output tables.

The output approach determines whether products generated by economic activities are bio-based. It then calculates the shares of these products in relation to the total production of each economic sector and, using these quotas weights the main macro-magnitudes of each economic activity (production, gross value added, and employment).

The input-output approach allows the bioeconomy to be dimensioned according to the links that sectors considered 100% bio-based can maintain with other industries that supply them (upstream) or serve as clients (downstream). For instance, in the case of the food and beverages industry, the upstream sectors could be agriculture and food processing, while the downstream sectors could be retail and hospitality. Bio-based sectors are those within the primary sector but can include primary processing industries such as food and beverages and the wood and paper industry.

Countries where downstream and upstream VA constitutes at least 50% of the total bioeconomy, 2018. Source: Cingiz et al. 2023.

Using the output approach, the total values of production growth, added value and employment generated by the bioeconomy had been estimated for 2016–2021, despite the effects of the covid-19 pandemic. Likewise, estimates of production and employment suggest a slight increase in the weight of the bioeconomy on the Catalan economy as a whole over these years.

Using the input-output approach, the gross value added (GVA) of the bioeconomy 2016–2021 amounts to 22,420.6 million euros (10.18% of the total GVA of the Catalan economy), a level comparable to that observed for the EU-27 average. Catalonia appears to be one of the main economies in Europe in terms of the weight of indirect links on the GVA of the bioeconomy, to the point of being among the top 10 EU countries with the highest weight of these links.

Economic weight of the bioeconomy in Catalonia

The recently published report by the Government of Catalonia, “Economic weight of the bioeconomy in Catalonia: application of Output and Input-Output methodologies” or “Pes economic de la bioeconomia a Catalunya: aplicació de methodologies d’Output I Input-Output” (in Catalan), offers a comprehensive view of the bioeconomy sector from 2016 to 2021. It spotlights significant developments, challenges, and, most importantly, strategic initiatives designed to foster a sustainable and innovative bioeconomy, instilling a sense of optimism for the future.

Introducing Catalonia’s technical dossier on bioeconomy #127

Are you aware of the transformative potential of a circular bioeconomy in Catalonia? Then check this recent report: “ Towards a circular bioeconomy for Catalonia (Cap a una bioeconomia circular a Catalunya in Catalan),” is the 127th issue of the report series published in March 2024 by the Department of Climate Action, Food and Rural Agenda of the Catalan Government. The document outlines the strategy to shift towards a sustainable and circular bioeconomy by 2030.

This approach aims to revitalise the local economy, enhance environmental resilience, and promote equitable territorial development. For instance, Catalonia’s bioeconomy strategy 2021–2030 (EBC2030) emphasises using local renewable biological resources to produce goods and services across all economic sectors.

Catalonia’s technical dossier on bioeconomy objectives

  • The bioeconomy sector is already of significant relevance in Catalonia. The goal is to decarbonise Catalonia’s economy, making it more sustainable, circular, inclusive, and resilient while creating business opportunities, for example, in the primary sector. The content of this technical dossier are
  • The political and social context of Catalonia’s bioeconomy
  • Improved forest management and the use of forest resources.
  • Creation of resilient agroforestry landscapes and sustainable provision of ecosystem services.
  • Development of innovative uses for livestock manure and other organic waste.
  • Improved use of co-products and by-products from the food chain.
  • The role of Catalonia’s new bioeconomy Hub: the Biohub CAT
Catalonia’s bioeconomy strategy factsheet.

Moving forward

There’s a need for systemic approaches and new governance forms that link public policies with territorial challenges and needs, fostering experimentation and learning. In addition, citizens should also play a role by adopting new lifestyle and consumption models to support the transformation towards a bioeconomy.

Read the full technical dossier (in Catalan) to learn more about the government’s strategies and actions.

Photo by curtoicurto from Getty Images

Stay in the know: new circular bioeconomy newsletter for Catalonia

The Ministry of Climate Action, Food, and Rural Agenda has launched the #CatalunyaCircular newsletter. Designed to keep companies and organisations informed about the latest developments in the circular bioeconomy and economy in Catalonia, Spain, this newsletter is for those involved in offering products or services in this field.

The #CatalunyaCircular newsletter aims to provide a dedicated platform for disseminating relevant information related to the circular bioeconomy. By offering a channel for communication and exchange, the newsletter seeks to facilitate the transition towards a more sustainable and circular economy in the region.

Subscribers can expect a wide range of content, including updates on news, projects, case studies, grants, events, and more. Whether you’re looking to stay informed about the latest industry trends or seeking opportunities for collaboration and networking, the #CatalunyaCircular newsletter is for you.

Subscribe to the CatalunyaCircular newsletter today (in Catalan).

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

The Biodiversity Foundation has chosen and will fund 56 projects, with 18 having participation from Catalan organisations, aimed at advancing the forest bioeconomy and its role in driving the ecological transition. In total, 44 organisations in Catalonia have obtained subsidies from the call.

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

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

FIRE-RES Open Innovation Challenge now open: support available for developing, demonstrating and piloting solutions to combat extreme wildfires in Europe

Europe is facing an increasing number of extreme wildfires, often with devastating consequences for people and the environment. These fires affect southern Europe as well as central European and Nordic countries.

As the limits of fire suppression-centred strategies become evident, practitioners, researchers, and policymakers increasingly recognise the need to develop novel approaches that expand the scope of work in this field, including the root causes and the impacts of Extreme Wildfires.

Working towards greater resilience to such extreme fires, FIRE-RES and its partners launched the FIRE-RES Open Innovation Challenge for applications aiming to address the most important challenges faced in the prevention of and preparation for, in response to, and enabling recovery after extreme wildfires.

The 11 Living Labs of FIRE-RES were assigned to identify these most pressing challenges, grouped into seven themes and 17 challenges: ‘Risk Communication and Awareness’, ‘Engagement and Empowerment’, ‘Training and Education’, ‘Management Before, During and After Extreme Wildfire Events’, ‘Monitoring’, ‘Forecasting and Decision Support’, ‘Policy and Governance’. Explore all themes and challenges here.

The Open Innovation Challenge is open to innovators, entrepreneurs, technologists, researchers, businesses of all sizes, experts, and all forward-thinking minds to step up and submit cutting-edge solutions addressing the challenges experienced by different stakeholders coping with the risks of extreme wildfires.

It is seeking innovative solutions of all kinds, for instance, technological, social or business-related: products, services, platforms, processes, procedures, best practices, etc. Solutions at all development stages are welcome, from early ideas, methods, and prototypes to close-to-market or market-ready services and products.

Successful applicants with early-stage solutions, such as ideas, will be supported to develop their solutions. Later-stage solutions, such as prototypes, close-to-market, or market-ready solutions, will be supported to demonstrate, pilot and upscale their solutions. This will include brokerage of on-the-ground contacts and testing of their solutions’ feasibility in the realistic contexts of the Living Labs. Successful applicants will receive mentoring and in-kind support as well as, in selected cases, financial support. For the latter, a total of €168.000 is available for this Open Innovation Challenge, with individual entries being eligible for up to €5.000 for demonstration activities and up to €16.000 for piloting activities.

The FIRE-RES Open Innovation Challenge is open until 19 November 2023 (23:59 CET). For full details, please visit the website here.

Sign up for the FIRE-RES Newsletter and receive the latest updates about our activities and the Open Innovation Challenge here.

For questions about applications, 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

Be a beta tester for the Bioeconomy Solutions Platform

What’s the Forest Bioeconomy in Action Platform?

The Bioregions Facility invites beta testers to explore the pilot version of the Forest Bioeconomy in Action Platform—a community to discover solutions, learn from knowledge, and keep track of news related to carbon farming.

Innovative solutions are crucial to the development of the bioeconomy, and the platform can contribute to it. Initially, the solutions are focused on carbon farming, but the goal is to expand it to various forest bioeconomy topics.

The Facility is working with Ubuntoo, an environmental solutions platform provider, to search for relevant solutions. The platform is powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and human curation, but users can also recommend solutions from other sources.

Solutions platform

The platform has about 100 solutions waiting to be explored, commented and shared. Users can filter the solutions based on “location,” “stage of development,” “seeking opportunity,” “solution theme,” and “organisation type.”

They can read an overview of the solution, check the organisation’s key contact, leave comments, and upvote or downvote the solution.

A special feature is creating a collection with chosen solutions, like a Spotify playlist but for project solutions. This collection has a unique link, and users can share the page with others.

Different knowledge products can be found in the “Learn” section, e.g., EFI publications, peer-review papers and other materials. The “News” and “Events” sections are useful for staying updated with the latest news and upcoming events.

Explore the solutions

Here’s a preview of two solutions:

Solution: SustainCERT

Overview: SustainCERT is a climate impact verifier that offers efficient and scalable certification through its technology-driven platform. A recognised authority for the Gold Standard for Global Goals, SustainCERT ensures that certified climate actions align with sustainable development goals.

SustainCERT overview on the solutions platform.

Solution: Zerticarbon app

Overview: 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. The solution has recently won the Bioregions’ Open Innovation Challenge.

Zerticarbon app overview on the solutions platform.

Become a beta tester

Are you interested in becoming a beta tester? Fill out the request form now. Selected candidates will receive an email from the Bioregions Facility to register for the platform.

As a beta tester for the Forest Bioeconomy in Action Platform, you have direct access to the latest solutions applicable to the European market. Join the movement and help us make a difference in the bioeconomy.

Do you have any questions or suggestions? Email us at efibioregions@efi.int

Here’s what you can do on the solutions platform:

Create your account

Once you receive an email with a link to access the platform:

  • Click the “Click here to register to the platform” button in the registration email. This will take you to the page to create your login credentials.
  • Follow the instructions, fill in your email address and create your password.

Log in to the platform

Log into your account using the email address and password you used to create your account.

If you missed the initial invite or it has expired, simply visit Forest Bioeconomy in Action and click “forgot password” to create a new password and log in.

In your profile

On the platform, click the triple bar icon at the upper right corner of the menu:

  • Update your name or picture in “My Profile.”
  • Check other greenhouses and collections in “My Greenhouses.”
  • Click “Take the Tour” to learn more about the platform.
  • You can also “Change Password” or “Invite a Member.”

Discover solutions

In the navigation bar, click Discover:

  • Search solutions by clicking on the button “All Filters” or
  • Use the search bar using keywords, topics, or specific names.
  • Change the view to “Map” or “Grid.”

Inside a solution:

  • Read the overview and leave comments.
  • Upvote or downvote solutions.
  • Check key contacts and visit the original website.

Create a new collection:

  • Inside each solution, you can see the “+Collection” button at the bottom of the filter section.
  • Click “+Collection.”
  • Add selected solution to a collection, or
  • Create a new collection.

Learn

In the navigation bar, click Learn → Knowledge, Events, News to browse and search for other knowledge products, latest news and upcoming events.

Connect

In the navigation bar, click Connect → Members to see other members or (You can tag other members in the comment section when reading a solution.) → Forum to start a discussion with other members.

Recommend+

In the navigation bar, click Recommend+ to suggest a new solution. Our team will review the information provided and add it to the website if it fits our requirements.

Feedback

After using the platform, we will send a Feedback form requesting users to share their thoughts and help us improve the platform.

Questions

Do you have any questions or suggestions? Email us at bioregions@efi.int

See you on the platform!

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.

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.

Catalonia joins the Bioregions Facility

The government of Catalonia is joining the Bioregions Facility – as its fourth member – through its Ministry of Climate Action, Food and Rural Agenda. Catalonia is one of Europe’s most innovative regions, has a large bioeconomy potential and is already providing valuable contributions to the Bioregions Facility. 

According to Jaume Sió, Head of the Technical Cabinet of the Ministry of Climate Action, Food and Rural Agenda of the Catalan government, “For Catalonia, becoming a member of Bioregions Facility is a firm step to continue advancing in the implementation and dissemination of the Catalan Bioeconomy Strategy 2030 (EBC 2030), especially in the fields of forestry and creation of resilient agroforestry landscapes. For us, promoting interregional cooperation is key to positioning Catalonia as a region that works to achieve a circular bioeconomy at the European level. It also offers a great opportunity to exchange experiences and successful practices with other regions, as well as strengthen the Catalan forest bioeconomy ecosystem.” 

Catalan Bioeconomy Strategy 

The Catalan Bioeconomy Strategy 2030, approved in September 2021, aims to strengthen the growth and sustainable development of the Catalan economy by promoting the production of biological resources as well as local and renewable processes. The First Action Plan 2022–2024 of the Strategy contemplates 15 Transformative Actions with a funding of over €200 million. This Plan also prioritises four value chains: 

1) Improvement in forest management and the use of forest resources. 

2) Creation of resilient agroforestry landscapes and the sustainable provision of ecosystem services. 

3) Recovery of coproducts and by-products from the food chain. 

4) Resource recovery from livestock waste and organic waste.  

In relation to the first two forest-related value chains, the strategy aims to increase the use of forest resources by 30% by 2030. This is done with a multifunctional landscape perspective and an emphasis on the agroforestry mosaic. This approach will help create and maintain more cohesive communities and more resilient landscapes, preserving biodiversity and promoting economic and social development. 

The EBC 2030 is a cross-cutting, forward-looking strategy seeking to enhance the sustainability and competitiveness of every sector involved, particularly the primary sector. It focuses on underdeveloped value chains and uses knowledge generation as a driver for change. Creating quality jobs and anchoring the population to the rural environment are also fundamental pillars of the Strategy. 

Discover the Catalan Bioeconomy Strategy 2030 factsheet

Forest bioeconomy in action 

The implementation of the bioeconomy needs to be guided by several principles; Mr. Jaume Sió highlights the following three principles: 

1) Bioeconomy should contribute to stopping the loss of biodiversity and preserving our natural heritage. We should work in favour of nature, not against it. 

2) Bioeconomy cannot compromise or compete with food production. We cannot divert our capacity to produce food to generate energy or materials. 

3) Bioeconomy is a great opportunity to create partnerships between urban and rural areas

Bioregions Facility is open to new regions 

Any European region making tangible advances towards the forest-based bioeconomy – committed to sustainable, circular actions that consider the landscape and forest resources in a holistic way – can apply to become one of the Bioregions.