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

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!

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

Project competition Land.Voraus!

The project competition Land.Voraus! identifies outstanding rural development projects, awards them with attractive prize money and supports them in advertising the projects. The aim is to support and spread good project ideas in rural areas in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and South Tyrol.

Who can participate?
Every actor who implements a project to strengthen rural areas in Germany, Austria, Switzerland or South Tyrol and can take part in the competition.

Prizes
A total of 12 winning projects are selected each year. The selected projects receive prize money and are supported in publicizing their projects. The announcement takes the form of a project calendar, which is distributed to the administrative districts and LEADER regions in the DACH region. Each winning project is featured on one page of the calendar with a picture and a brief description of the project.

Partnerships for Regional Innovation: first pilot plenary meeting

The Partnerships for Regional Innovation – PRI Pilot Action held its first pilot plenary meeting on 7 July 2022. The initiative was launched in June jointly by the European Commission and the Committee of the Regions. The first plenary meeting was an interactive event to generate discussions, dialogue, and co-creation among all PRI Pilot participants. It presented the policy context around PRI, the PRI Playbook and a proposal for a PRI Pilot roadmap, outlining the organization of pilot activities

Bioregions Facility has been selected to participate in the pilot project as a group of regions, consisting of its current regional members: Basque Country; North Rhine-Westphalia; and North Karelia. Representatives of the Facility joined the event, together with more than 150 participants.

The online event, started with the presentation of the New Innovation Agenda for Europe and PRI, highlighting the need of a holistic approach, investment, diffusion, circular economy, and innovation to tackle global challenges such as climate change. The work that PRI does at a regional level was also emphasized, including establishing networks, creating cooperation and consortia in regions working in the same value chain.

A call was made to select a contact person representing each region with an academic or scientific background to act as a scientific track and maintain constant interaction with the directive.

The PRI Playbook

During the event, the PRI Playbook was presented as a guidance document, containing a range of tools and mechanisms to coordinate and enable the exploration of broad-ranging policy mixes for system-level innovation. The playbook will act as an empowering tool for policymakers and should be adapted to European realities, as it will be co-created via joint work and with feedback from the regions.

It contains a Toolbox that gathers 68 tools for diagnosis, policy design and implementation; and three building blocks as an initial approach to be co-developed through the pilot: Open Discovery Process, Policy and Action Mix and the Strategic Policy framework. Three working groups will be working around each building block.

The event ended with a discussion and feedback from pilot participants from the different participant regions, and final remarks from the EU committee.

Michal Miedzinski, economic and policy researcher at JRC said: “This is a collective effort from the bottom, with the best minds we can gather and do a collation of the willing, these are all the ingredients we need to move forward“.

Thomas Wobben, Director at Committee of the Regions gave a strong final message: “We really hope that this collaboration is building on trust, that we are able to have a frank exchange, and that we can help each other”

Background

The Partnerships are rooted in the upcoming Innovation Agenda for Europe to help integrate initiatives and investment at EU and national levels. It is an effort directly targeted to improve Innovation ecosystems as one essential area to boost Europe’s innovation performance. The key objective is to strengthen interconnection of regional and local innovation ecosystems for a green and digital Europe and to improve resilience of European sustainable value chains and deep-tech sectors.

Timber Construction Award @ Solar Decathlon Europe in Wuppertal

The Solar Decathlon Europe 21/22 (SDE 21/22) is the university competition for sustainable building and living in cities. You can now watch the official video that features the Timber Construction Award, awarded June 19th at Solar Decathlon Europe in Wuppertal, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. It shows impressively the potential of timber in sustainable building for the future and the potential of reuse of timber structures for the circular bioeconomy.

Timber Construction Award Solar Decathlon 2021 and 2022.

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Bioregions Facility selected for the Pilot Action on Partnership for Regional Innovation

The European Commission announced the 63 regions, seven cities and four Member States selected in the pilot project for Partnerships for Regional Innovation (PRI), an initiative developed together with the Committee of the Regions. Participants in the pilot action are open to share good practices and to co-develop and test tools to mobilise multiple sources of funding and policies, and connect regional and national programmes to EU initiatives for the green and digital transformations. These Partnerships will feed into the new Innovation Agenda for Europe, where innovation drives the transformation for sustainability, connecting local strategies with EU-level initiatives.

The call has attracted a wide representation of the EU innovation ecosystem, ranging from Member States and a broad variety of EU regions to multi-region networks. The Bioregions Facility successfully applied as a group of regions, consisting of its current regional members: Basque Country, North Rhine-Westphalia and North Karelia. The Bioregions Facility, together with 38 other successful applicants, will now start working on activities within the framework of the Pilot Action. Inazio Martinez de Arano, coordinator of the Bioregions Facility, explained “the Pilot Action is very timely to upscale our Facility’s efforts to catalyse innovation in the forest-based bioeconomy of our member regions”.

Pilot Action launch event

The hybrid launch event of the initiative took place on 17 May 2022 in Brussels; the recording is available here. In the opening session, Commissioners Elisa Ferreira (Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms) and Mariya Gabriel (Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth), together with President of the CoR, Apostolos Tzitzikostas, highlighted the importance of the PRI to tackle the innovation divide in the EU and to allow convergent growth of European regions. The message of Mr. Tzitzikostas was strong: “Investing in innovation is not a luxury”.

During the second session, officials of several regions and cities participating in the Pilot Action expressed their commitment to and expectations of the PRI. The third session focused on the implementation priorities and challenges. Kevin Morgan, Scientific Committee Member, closed the third session with: “Top performing cities and regions will innovate anyway. Without our intervention, without our advice. The unique thing about the PRI is that it offers an opportunity for all places to innovate and …. to become the best that they can be.”

Partnerships for Regional Innovation Playbook

The main reference document underpinning the Partnerships for Regional Innovation – PRI Pilot Action is the “Partnerships for Regional Innovation Playbook“, developed by the JRC-European Commission with the support of a Scientific Committee of recognised experts and centred on a selection of practical policy tools. This initial edition showcases proven tools, inspired by leading innovation policy practice across Europe and the world. The term ‘play’ in the title emphasises the need for exploring, experimenting and learning and also for tailored approaches to the unique opportunities and challenges of each territory.

During the Pilot Action, taking place from May 2022 until June 2023, the participants will test these policy tools while co-creating operational guidance. The Playbook and Pilot Action will also promote good practices, facilitate learning through experimentation and support public administrations and the broader ecosystem.

Background

The Partnerships are rooted in the upcoming Innovation Agenda for Europe to help integrate initiatives and investment at EU and national levels. It is an effort directly targeted to improve Innovation ecosystems as one essential area to boost Europe’s innovation performance. The key objective is to strengthen interconnection of regional and local innovation ecosystems for a green and digital Europe and to improve resilience of European sustainable value chains and deep-tech sectors.

EU Mission “Climate-Neutral and Smart Cities” announced

Earlier this year, 377 European cities applied to be one of the 100 cities selected in the frame of the Horizon Europe Mission on climate-neutral and smart cities. Last week the European Commission announced the 112 cities that have been selected. EFI’s Bioregions Facility is pleased to see Vitoria-Gasteiz from Basque Country, and Aachen and Dortmund from North Rhine-Westphalia among selected cities.

The 100 cities come from all 27 Member States, with 12 additional cities coming from countries associated or with the potential of being associated to Horizon Europe, the EU’s research and innovation programme (2021-2027).  Selected cities will work together to reach climate neutrality by 2030, receiving dedicated support from the Mission Platform, NetZeroCities. The Mission aims to deliver at least 100 climate-neutral and smart cities by 2030, who will act as experimentation and innovation hubs to support all European cities in becoming climate-neutral by 2050.