The World BioEconomy Forum Declaration 2023
The World Bioeconomy Forum
12 December 2023
The international bioeconomy has been very dynamic especially since 2022. The world economic powerhouses such as China and the USA have recently increased engagement in this sector. China announced its first bioeconomy strategy in May 2022, and the USA updated its own strategy by an initiative EO 14081 to advance Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing in September 2022. Both counties also have an interest in becoming the world’s leading bioeconomy – the competitive landscape is visible.
The bioeconomy is an emerging topic to other international fora, e.g. the UNIDO organised a bioeconomy panel for the first time at the UNFCCC COP27 last autumn, this year India brought the bioeconomy on the G20 meeting agenda. There is a growing interest to consider the bioeconomy as an alternative from of production to deal with the global challenges.
The importance of the bioeconomy is also growing economically. It is estimated that the current global value of the bioeconomy is estimated 4-5 trillion USD and according to some projections its value may rise to 30 trillion USD by the end of decade, which is a third of the global economic value.
The bioeconomy can be considered as an alternative respond to humanity’s key challenges, such as climate change impacts, biodiversity, health and food security. Simultaneously, as complexity grows, it is imperative to acknowledge the role of the bioeconomy in interacting phenomena, with noteworthy attention in certain regions directed towards societal goals and the recognition of indigenous knowledge.
Bioeconomy is not an explicit concept, and its contents are not comparable across different regions. The bioeconomy scope varies across regions, each characterised by distinct sectors and priorities shaped by factors such as climate, natural resources, and policy frameworks.
The World BioEconomy Forum do apply a biotechnology, bioresource or bioecology vision to depict differences on bioeconomy approach in different regions. For instance, the USA, China and India have been very much focused on a biotechnology vision while the EU has been more inclined to bioresource and bioecology visions. Now there are signs of expanding approaches to become more comprehensive.
- A bioresource vision focuses on the role of research, development, and demonstration (RD & D) related to biological raw materials from agriculture, marine, forestry, and the bioenergy, as well as on the establishment of new value chains. Whereas the biotechnology vision takes a point of departure in the potential applicability of biosciences and biotechnology in creating new products, the bio-resource vision emphasises the potential in upgrading and conversion of the existing biological raw materials.
- A biotechnology vision emphasises the importance of biotechnology research and applications, and commercialisation of biotechnology in different product sectors.
- A bioecology vision highlights the importance of ecological processes that optimise the use of energy and nutrients, promote biodiversity, and avoid monocultures and soil degradation. While the previous two visions are technology-focused and give a central role to RD &I in globalised systems, this vision emphasises the potential for regionally concentrated circular and integrated processes and systems.
Biotechnology is growing in importance. As such, the topic is not new. What is new is that new tools for bioengineering such as genome editing tools, automation, digitalisation and AI are boosting the development work of the sector enabling faster product launches and greater investor confidence.
Bioresources deployment expectations differ from region to region. The USA is under way to deploy more of its domestic biomass, while in the EU there has been a tendency to pose more regulations to the use of the domestic biomass and more emphasis to upgrade domestic residues, processing side-streams and sludge. China aims to improve the management and protection of its biomass. Brazil sees opportunities to increase the use of biomass and seeks more opportunities in the downstream of the value chains.
The Four-Pillar Structure of the World BioEconomy Forum
The Forum operates diligently within the Four-Pillar Structure:
I The Bioeconomy: People, Planet, Policies
II Corporate Leaders and the Financial World
III Bioproducts Around Us
IV Looking to the Future
This structured framework allows for a comprehensive evaluation of the circular bioeconomy’s status, facilitating developments across the entire sector. The power and effectiveness of the Forum lie in its ability to holistically address the bioeconomy, fostering significant, concerted efforts in climate change mitigation.
All Forum programs and activities, including Roundtables and the annual Declaration, align seamlessly with the Four-Pillar Structure. This intentional design ensures that all stakeholders in the circular bioeconomy have a voice and a platform, contributing to a more inclusive and impactful dialogue and action.
The Bioeconomy: People, Planet, Policies
1. We strongly encourage regions to adopt a holistic approach to the bioeconomy, incorporating three key visions: Bioresource, Biotechnology, and Bioecology.
Recognizing the absence of a uniform concept in the bioeconomy, our advocacy is rooted in the belief that by elaborating on all visions, each region can navigate toward the most optimal pathway for bioeconomic development. This inclusive approach aims to address the diverse facets of the bioeconomy and empower regions to make informed and strategic choices aligned with their unique strengths, visions and goals.
2. We propose that governments establish clear strategies and guidelines for the bioeconomy to facilitate its role and the development of the circular bioeconomy.
This proposal emphasises the importance of defining specific responsibilities and measures within governmental frameworks to ensure effective governance and robust support for bioeconomic initiatives. By establishing clear accountability, governments can play a pivotal role in fostering an environment conducive to the sustainable growth of the circular bioeconomy.
Corporate Leaders and the Financial World
3. We actively encourage corporates to manifest their interest and enhance their pursuit of investment in sustainable bio-based applications and unlocking the full potential of the biomass.
This encouragement is grounded in the belief that corporate engagement in sustainable bio-based applications is vital for driving innovation and fostering environmentally conscious practices. By urging corporations to actively invest in these applications, we aim to stimulate positive contributions to the bioeconomy, aligning economic interests with sustainable, socially inclusive and eco- friendly solutions.
4. As the value of the bioeconomy increases, we propose that financial institutes arrange programs and funds related to bioeconomy investments.
This proposition highlights the need for financial institutions to adapt to the evolving landscape of the bioeconomy. By organizing targeted programs and funds, these institutions can play a crucial role in supporting research, development, and implementation of bioeconomic projects. The aim is to foster a financial ecosystem that aligns with the growing significance of the bioeconomy in addressing global challenges and driving sustainable economic growth.
Bioproducts around us
5. We believe biotech will increase in importance in the development of processes aimed at replacing of fossil resources with renewable ones in manufacturing diverse products.
Biotechnology stands as a pivotal enabling technology with broad applications in the synthesis of fuels, chemicals, materials, food and feed components, enzymes, pharmaceuticals and more. In the realm of industrial biotechnology, these products are produced with benign microorganisms in closed bioreactors enabling the implementation of robust safety measures throughout the manufacturing process. Moreover, the engineering of biology, often manifested through synthetic biology, offers a powerful toolset for tapping into the extensive genetic information found in nature. This capability expands the range of products and feedstocks within the bioeconomy and brings their production to industrial heights showcasing the transformative potential of biotechnological advancement and competitiveness.
6. We endorse institutes and enterprises to seek sustainable use of the biomass including residuals.
This endorsement emphasises a comprehensive approach, urging the adoption of sustainable practices and innovative technologies. It focuses on maximising the value derived from primary biomass components and residuals. The goal is to enhance environmental sustainability, increase efficiency within the bioeconomy, and promote a holistic strategy aligned with the principles of a responsible bioeconomy framework and the cascading principles and to produce chemicals/materials to supersede fossil-based.
Looking to the Future
7. We encourage regions to engage in cross-border collaboration on the bioeconomy to provide a level playing field for operators in the circular bioeconomy.
This encouragement highlights the importance of fostering collaborative efforts between regions in the realm of the bioeconomy. The description emphasizes the need for a level playing field, where operators can compete and cooperate on fair terms. The aim is to create an environment that promotes shared standards, knowledge exchange, and mutual support, contributing to the advancement of the circular bioeconomy on a global scale. The call is for collaborative initiatives that break down barriers and create equitable opportunities for all participating regions.
8. We propose regions to jointly examine the lessons from the previous or on-going industrial revolution – digitalization and automation – to seek insights for the emerging industrial revolution – biorevolution.
This proposal suggests a collaborative exploration by regions to draw lessons from the from the previous or on-going industrial revolution, particularly focusing on digitalization. The description emphasizes the intention to extract valuable insights and apply them to the emerging industrial revolution, characterized as the biorevolution. This process involves studying technological advancements, successful strategies, and transformative impacts of digitalization to inform and guide regions in navigating the complexities and opportunities presented by the evolving landscape of the biorevolution. The call is for a shared learning experience that facilitates informed and strategic decision-making in the context of the bioeconomy.
 Sustainable use of biomass involves:
- Unlocking the full potential of the sustainable biomass.
- Production of high-performance bio-based materials/products with reduced environmental, toxicological and climate impact.
- Utilisation of biomass from sustainable sources, considering limited water usage and minimising reliance on pesticides, fertilisers, and herbicides, avoiding land use change and social impacts. This encompasses both primary biomass compounds and residuals in a full biorefinery.
- Prolonging carbon storage through recycling materials and using residues as bioenergy sources, contributing to a circular and sustainable bioeconomy.
- Optimising biodegradability for both accidental and intentional releases, particularly in agricultural conditions to enhance soil carbon content.