Originally published on Euskadi (in Spanish)
- This morning, the Basque Government and the European Forest Institute, in collaboration with the NEIKER technology centre, held the Bioeconomy Innovation Day 2023 to present the latest scientific advances and innovative solutions in the circular economy.
- The event, attended by some of the most prominent European agents in the bioeconomy, has become a networking space to share success stories and promote learning.
- This event is part of the Basque Government’s strategy to promote the bioeconomy in the territory and in the business fabric of the Basque Country to achieve more sustainable production.
Wednesday, 4 October 2023. Vital green infrastructures cover more than 54% of the surface area of the Basque Country: forests. Sustainable forest management can help to adapt forests to climate change, balancing the production of timber, non-timber products and ecosystem services.
In a scenario in which the bioeconomy is gaining notoriety, the Basque Country is moving towards the ecological transition by promoting and developing different projects and initiatives related to the bioeconomy and forestry research.
To present their latest developments, the Basque Government and the European Forest Institute (EFI), with the collaboration of the NEIKER technology centre, a member of the Basque Research and Technology Alliance (BRTA), held the Bioeconomy Innovation Day this morning in Bilbao, Spain.
The event focused on presenting the latest scientific advances and innovative solutions for different aspects of the forest bioeconomy, such as examples of bio-construction, models for more sustainable and functional forestry or the dissemination of advanced bio-based materials. This sharing has been done through a combination of keynote speeches, short and high-impact presentations of concrete innovative solutions, and networking time.
The event was opened by Bittor Oroz, Vice-minister of Fisheries, Agriculture and Food Policy of the Basque Government. Other participants who intervened were Ananya Manna, Investment Director of the European Circular Bioeconomy Fund (ECBF) and Leire Barañano, Director General of NEIKER and Vice-President of the Board of Directors of the European Forest Institute (EFI), a European benchmark in forestry research, and Inazio Martínez de Arano, Coordinator of the Bioregions Facility, among others.
During his speech at the opening of the event, Bittor Oroz, the Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Policy of the Basque Government wanted to highlight the importance of promoting projects that “allow us to transform the economic model of the territory towards a more sustainable production that guarantees the well-being of people and the planet. This conference has allowed us to share with our European colleagues some of the most relevant projects that are being carried out in the Basque Country and which are making the region emerge as one of the bio-economic focal points of Europe”.
A European knowledge network
Networking was one of the highlights of the day. The event was attended by some of the main European players in the bioeconomy innovation ecosystem from fields as diverse as research, forestry management, industry, business, finance, government and civil society.
In fact, during the event, some of the successful cases of acceleration and support for the bioeconomy and sustainable forest management in European regions such as Germany, Finland and Ireland were shared. In the case of the Basque Country, the example of Enkarterri was highlighted, an initiative presented by Peli Manterola, director of HAZI, which is becoming a powerful bioeconomy hub that integrates training, entrepreneurship and business activities.
Towards more sustainable production
The Basque Country has been working for years in the field of the circular economy. In fact, according to data from the Basque Government’s Department of Economic Development, Sustainability and Environment, since 2000, the Basque economy has grown by 26%, while the consumption of materials has been reduced by 25% and the volume of urban waste in landfill has been reduced by 56%. In this time of ecological transition, the region’s economy is decoupling itself from the consumption of materials and the generation of waste through various measures and projects such as those mentioned above to promote the circular economy.
In this context, in October 2022, the Basque Government approved the Circular Economy and Bioeconomy Plan (in Spanish), an initiative aligned with the European Green Pact, which seeks to boost efficiency in the consumption of raw materials, reduce waste and optimise clean production. Among other challenges, this plan plans to increase material productivity by 30%, reduce the waste generation rate by 10% and position the Basque Country among the leaders of the circular economy in Europe.
This event is part of the Basque Government’s strategy to promote the bioeconomy in the territory and in the business fabric of the Basque Country through projects, platforms and initiatives to transform the linear production model – based on the continuous and growing extraction of raw materials – into a more sustainable production, which guarantees human well-being and the health of the planet and which allows the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) established by the UN to be achieved.
On 31 August 2023, a delegation from the Basque Country, Spain, visited the European Forest Institute (EFI) headquarters and the Bioregions Facility in Joensuu, Finland. The visit was part of a trip the delegation made to Helsinki and Joensuu to strengthen their relations and seek collaboration opportunities with different institutions working on the bioeconomy.
Robert Mavsar, interim director of EFI, introduced EFI’s work and strategic role in research and innovation, followed by Diana Tuomasjukka, who highlighted the ongoing projects and activities done in the Bioeconomy Programme to Estibaliz Hernáez, vice-minister of Technology, Innovation and Digital Transformation, Bittor Oroz, vice-minister of Fisheries, Agriculture and Food Policy, Leire Barañano, general director of Neiker, and Imanol Goenaga, advisor for environment and sustainability.
The Basque government has an ambitious bioeconomy roadmap. It aims to make the region a reference in the bioeconomy, promoting the generation and consolidation of high-value economic activities based on the optimal exploitation of regional resources.
Research and support
Presentations were followed by vivid discussions on the challenges that developing a sustainable bioeconomy has in the Basque Country and the rest of Europe, such as including biodiversity and social responsibility in industries, the role that perceptions and beliefs play in forest planning and management, and the need of models and tools that analyse ecological, economic and social aspects.
“The Basque Country counts with a lot of research information; what we need to develop further are models that can make information useable in a practical way. Effectively communicating the findings is also crucial to move from a traditional mindset to a more science-based one,” said Leire Barañano.
The work of EFI in providing tools that link knowledge to action and in communicating science to the population and industries is crucial in this scenario.
Lauri Sikanen, principal scientist and group manager of Luke—an organisation expert in the sustainable use of renewable natural resources—presented Luke’s research programmes and how they foster the forest-based bioeconomy in Finland.
Basque Country moving forward
The Basque delegation was received by Seppo Tossavainen, Business Specialist, and Kirsi Svard, Business Coach, at Business Joensuu, where they had the opportunity to learn more about the organisation’s development services and Forest Joensuu Innovation Ecosystems.
Companies supported by Business Joensuu—Hiil and WoodSense from Mielikki Nordic—pitched their solutions. They discussed the favourable conditions that Business Joensuu and the bioeconomy ecosystem in North Karelia provide for the development of forest-based companies.
During the afternoon, they met Pekka Äänismaa, director and stakeholder relations at Metsäkeskus – Finnish Forest Centre, who presented the Centre’s work. Tuomo Kauranne, president of Arbonaut, gave a presentation on Living with fire: How to mitigate forest fires with digital twins of the forest.
Bittor Oroz, vice-minister of Fisheries, Agriculture and Food Policy, expressed his gratitude for the satisfactory relations that the Basque Country has with EFI as well as the membership of the region in the Bioregions Facility.
Featured image: Minna Korhonen by EFI
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.
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:
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.”
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.
In the navigation bar, click Learn → Knowledge, Events, News to browse and search for other knowledge products, latest news and upcoming events.
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.
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.
After using the platform, we will send a Feedback form requesting users to share their thoughts and help us improve the platform.
Do you have any questions or suggestions? Email us at email@example.com
See you on the platform!
To foster a stronger bioeconomy development, innovation is key to accelerating progress towards a circular, carbon-neutral economy. Bioeconomy researchers, policymakers and entrepreneurs help shape bioeconomy innovations that have the potential to bring about sustainable and transformative change for the forest-based sector.
On 4 October 2023, the European Forest Institute – Bioregions Facility, Neiker and the Government of Basque Country, Spain, join to discuss pressing issues on sustainable and multifunctional forestry, advanced biomaterials and bio-based construction at the Bioeconomy Innovation Day 2023.
Financers, policymakers, and key actors in the bioeconomy innovation ecosystem, from research, business, forest management, industry, and civil society, will meet and explore new opportunities to drive the green transition.
Start-ups, entrepreneurs, researchers, NGOs, venture and impact investors, all bioeconomy stakeholders, and society are invited to submit their innovations for a chance to pitch their solutions at the Bioeconomy Innovation Day in Bilbao, Spain.
View the agenda here (last update: 27 September 2023).
Bioeconomy innovation agenda
Looking for more events? Explore our Events page and add your favourites to your calendar.
Agenda for Wednesday (4 October 2023) – CEST
Get your ticket:
Session 1 Sustainable and Multifunctional Forestry
Session 2 Advanced Bio-based Materials
Session 3: A Boost for the Forest Bioeconomy Innovation Lessons from European Regions
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.
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.
“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
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.
The Department of Sustainability and Natural Environment of Bizkaia organized on November 15 and 16 a conference that discussed the models of sustainable forest management and complementary forestry. The event examined the European context, the new trends in the field, and several practical examples of efficient management of forest resources.
These meetings, which had the collaboration of the UPV/EHU (The University of the Basque Country) and the USSE (Union of Foresters of Southern Europe), opened with a series of talks given by international experts, including Bernhard Wolfslehner, the representative of Forest Europe who opened the day by giving a vision of the European context in the field of sustainable forest management.
This presentation was followed by conferences on sustainable forest management of private forests and public forests, as well as on management closer to nature. Inazio Martinez de Arano from the Bioregions Facility, together with speakers from the European Confederation of Forest Owners (CEPF), Eustafor (European State Forest Association) and ProSilva participated in the round table “The forest as the green engine of the bioeconomy”, in which he mentioned the challenges and opportunities of using forest resources to support the bioeconomy. He highlighted: “Forests have an important role in supporting the circular economy through the potential of biomaterials and their low carbon footprint. We also need to learn how to use biological elements in cities, not only in construction but also taking into account the ecosystem services that they provide, it is crucial to take care of the forests for purposes such as tourism.”
The conference continued with the presentations of practical examples of sustainable forest management in Sweden, Italy, Central Europe, and Southern Europe by experts from the Federation of Swedish Family Forest Owners, Etifor, Mayr Meinnol Forst and the Arume Foundation. In other round tables, experts debated topics such as: models of sustainable forest management, ecosystem services, and adaptation to climate change and risk management.
NEIKER’s general manager presented the interesting business opportunities offered by the bioeconomy in Europe during her speech at Intergune 2022, a conference on Internationalisation organised by SPRI Group, the Basque Business Development Agency.
The event brings together and details all the services, financing and aid that the Basque Government makes available to companies and entrepreneurs in the Basque Country to start or expand their activity abroad.
Egurtek, the International Forum of Architecture & Construction in Wood, has closed its 9th edition. The main objectives of the forum are gathering all the advances in the wood construction & architecture field and promoting new synergies. The event reconfirmed the value of wood as a sustainable material for the future with exceptional qualities for construction. Nearly 1,300 professionals attended the event, confirming the solidity of the event and its suitability as a meeting place.
Bittor Oroz, Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Policy of the Basque Government opened the Egurtek event on 19 October: “Wood is a material for the future. Egurtek is not a forum that only promotes the use of wood, but one that plays a very important role because it reflects the entire value chain. It is not limited only to design and construction, but to forest management, technicians… it refers to all the links”.
In addition to the large congress room, Egurtek offers their visitors also the opportunity to join the Technical conferences, the Speaker’s corner and the Expo area. At the Technical conferences, Bittor Oroz Izagirre, Vice-minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Policy of the Basque government, and Leire Barañano, general manager of NEIKER BRTA, both mentioned the EFI Bioregions Facility as key actor to support the transition of the Basque Country towards a circular, territorial-based bioeconomy. The Technical conferences also provided a stage for projects to present their ongoing work: Basajaun, BEHS and Eguralt.
Visitors interested in innovative solutions and the latest trends in wood construction were satisfied to see more than 50 exhibitors in the Expo area, representing the latest innovations in wood construction. The Expo area also featured a Speakers’ Corner, a space where exhibitors gave dynamic and agile presentations about the main innovations which they represented at the forum.