What factors could speed up the bioeconomy development? Have scholars around the world found the answer? | VDU Žemės ūkio akademija

What factors could speed up the bioeconomy development? Have scholars around the world found the answer?

Climate change, depletion of biological resources worldwide, provision of food, clean water, energy to humanity becoming an increasingly hot issue – all of this urges for the innovations inherent to bioeconomy and offering an integrated approach towards economic development, social and environmental sustainability in agriculture, forestry and aquaculture.

Currently, the European bioeconomy market accounts for about EUR 2.4 trln using about 2 bln tonnes of biomass for production and creating jobs for about 22 mln people. According to the forecasts by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), bioeconomy is expected to become the core principle of the European economic development by 2055.

In the week of Global Climate Strikes, on 26 – 28 September, scholars from 28 different countries all over the world gathered in Kaunas to address the global climate change issues and explore the options. For 3 days, 200 global experts were discussing the topical questions in this field proposing social and economic innovations to speed up the process at the International Scientific Conference “Rural Development 2019: Research and Innovation for Bioeconomy” hosted by Vytautas Magnus University Agriculture Academy (VMU Agriculture Academy).

“We have arrived at the conclusion that social innovations are as important as technology innovations, as the former would enable including the entire society into bioeconomy development. However, the issue we are facing today is that social capital is declining in rural areas, and this has been confirmed both by Lithuanian and foreign scholars. We therefore must work together to explore the methods to help improve the situation,” firmly states prof. Vilma Atkočiūnienė at the Faculty of Bioeconomy Development of VMU Agriculture Academy, who is one of the event organizers.

The scholar has noted that the event held at the international scale has doubtlessly provided its participants with new ideas for research, expanded the boundaries of understanding of the importance of bioeconomy, encouraged them for more active international collaboration.

The Business and Science Forum “Bioeconomy Development as the Prerequisite of Long-Term Competitiveness and Wellbeing” was also held during the Conference and involved discussions among representatives of the state, research institutions, business, farmer self-governance organizations. The discussions were aimed at finding answers to the question of strengthening collaboration between economy developers, society, and align it with the environmental expectations, and how social innovations may contribute to improvement of viability of regions.

Discussion of the small farm issues proposing the tools for preserving their sustainability was under particular focus during the conference. The participants were analysing the economic, social and environmental aspects of development of small farms, discussing about the contribution of small farms into the efforts towards sustainability in the agricultural and food sectors in Lithuania, Poland, the Czech Republic, Turkey, Romania, Serbia, and Moldova.

Commenting on the country’s bioeconomy situation, Rimantas Sinkevičius, Chairman of the Committee on Economics at the Seimas, has noted that, today, everyone must feel responsible for the future, because each of us is facing the challenges of climate change and the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Therefore, there is no doubt that the only right path for sustainable development of humanity lies in promotion of bioeconomy and lengthening the chain of use of natural resources, generating the maximum possible economic and environmental effect.

“Alas, Lithuania is not yet among the leading countries able to present plenty of bioeconomy development outcomes. As you are eye witnessing the huge piles of logs or grains to be exported, you are realizing that we are still far from understanding what bioeconomy actually is,” claims R. Sinkevičius.

Prof. Astrida Miceikienė, Dean of the Faculty of Bioeconomy Development of VMU Agriculture Academy and Chair of the organizing committee of the Conference “Rural Development 2019: Research and Innovation for Bioeconomy” has noted that it is not a coincidence that bioeconomy development is currently one of the topical issues across the globe, as the societies are facing increasingly more challenges related to climate change. Moreover, the stocks of fossil natural resources are becoming depleted inevitably. Bioeconomy covers sustainable production of renewable biological resources and processing of the resources and waste flows into added-value products: food, fodder, industrial products of biological origin, bioenergy. Agricultural, forestry, fishery, food, pulp and paper production, as well as a part of chemistry, biotechnology and energy industries could participate in development of this branch.

“Bioeconomy is not an autonomous economy sector – it is a multi-dimensional mechanism involving not only agriculture, industry, but also the service sectors and consumers. It is therefore necessary to bring education of the society into the focus,” claims A. Miceikienė.

As a result, in terms of the content, the conference consisted of several segments: agro-innovation and food technologies; biosystem engineering and environmental sustainability; multi-functional method of sustainable exploitation of biological resources; social research and innovations in bioeconomy, aimed at sustainable changes and wellbeing in rural areas.

During the conference, the world-renowned scholars such as Karlheinz Knickel, Germany, Davide Rizzo, France, Talis Tisenkopfs, Latvia, delivered their presentations at the Conference. More than 100 research evidence-based presentations were delivered in total at the conference on different relevant topics.