Bio Economy in the Baltic Sea Region: Assist solving Global Societal Challenges while promoting Regional Development

Bio Economy in the Baltic Sea Region: Assist solving Global Societal Challenges while promoting Regional Development

To grow the Bio economy is to make value from bio based products, from biological processes and biological solutions, hereby addressing major societal challenges.


On the Picture: Lene Lange, Professor Aalborg University, Research Director Barentzymes AS

By Lene Lange, Professor Aalborg University, Research Director Barentzymes AS; Johan Sanders, Innovation Manager, Wageningen University and Research Centre; Morten Gylling, Senior Advisor, Copenhagen University.

Bio economy has the potentials to address the global challenges of climate change, feeding the world, life style diseases and need for improved resource efficiency while at the same time being an important driver of regional economic development, and not the least creating new jobs, in both urban, rural and coastal areas.

The examples of biobased products are multiple. Biobased products are any products like fuels, chemicals, materials, fertilizer, feed and food ingredients – made from renewable resources.

Advantages of biobased products are the replacement of fossil resources, and at the same time reducing greenhouse gasses and achieving improved use of natural resources upgraded also to higher value products. The largest replacement of fossil resources and reduction of greenhouse gasses even without subsidies can be obtained by three economic carriers with reasonably high volume and value:

• Protein for animal feed

• Chemical building blocks for functionalized chemicals

• Biological materials, e.g. bioplastic made from household waste or sludge

These components can be obtained from various biomass resources, leaving other components that can be used for their caloric value in transportation fuels, electricity and heat in competition with the fossil resources.

In parallel we need to get more out of what is already produced while increasing resource efficiency and improving sustainability. Underexploited biomaterials can be used as basis for new products for food, feed, improved biodegradable biomaterials, fertilizer, biochemical building blocks etc. This should be integrated with the reduction of productions with high waste output to enhance overall efficiency.

(Figure prepared by Peter Westermann, Aalborg University)

Technologies the back bone of Bio economy
An efficient Bio economy depends on our exploitation of modern technologies. A core technology is the biological production by bacteria, yeasts and filamentous fungi in fermentation tanks, and the conversion of biomaterials to upgraded products. This will give basis for increased sustainability and diminishing greenhouse gas emissions, by substituting for fossils and by using the already produced agricultural materials more efficiently (from Waste to Value). Production can be implemented in both large and small scale. It can be placed centralized or decentralized (where the biomass is and where the minerals can be recycled without much effort) thus contributing to the local, the rural, the coastal and/or the urban development.

Bio refineries are cornerstones in the bioeconomy as they produce food, feed, fuel, chemicals, fertilizer, biogas or electricity at increased efficiency level.

Biorefineries have the potentials of contributing to healthier food and feed products since healthy components can be recovered from e.g. plant cell wall components and used for e.g. biobased applications. Large scale bio refineries are established in for example Fiorencino (I) or under establishment in Maabjerg (DK). The small scale refinery requiring less investments has huge potentials as it can be established based on significant lower amount of invested capital, with lower risk, based on local raw materials and producing products which are meant for both local and more distant markets/customers, while minerals and soil carbon can be recycled without much (energy and economical) costs.

In general processes which need a lot of heat exchange capacity will be capital intensive and therefore they will benefit from economies of scale. This will be even more so if the heat-exchange has to be done under severe conditions. If one can circumvent the need for heat exchange, then much less dis-economy for small scale is experienced, and for those processes one can benefit even more from the advantages of small scale.

The Baltic Sea Region and Bio economy
The Baltic Sea Region has as recently described significant opportunities in Bio economy[1] and obviously also challenges. However the Nordic Council of Ministers has taken a special responsibility to act as catalyzer, facilitator and initiator for a cooperation that will accelerate the transition towards a sustainable Bio economy for the Baltic Sea region[2].

We believe this is a very important step forward, as neighbouring countries and the concept of macro-regions have the potential for pooling scientific, industrial and financial resources as an important complementary to bilateral, EU and/or global collaborations.

The Baltic Sea region may for example act as an umbrella or entrance to various EU level collaborations or financing tools assisting to coordinate between competencies, policy and financing. This can enhance the efficient exploitation of existing resources and infrastructure and establish the Baltic Sea region as a model region for Bio economy.

[1] A Bio economy for the Baltic Sea region, Nordic Council of Ministers, March 2014, download report here.

[2] Bioeconomy in the Baltic Sea region

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