The NoRest conference in late October 2016 gathered experts from different research disciplines, governmental organisations and industry. The aim was to share information and stimulate innovation and collaboration in the Nordic bio-economy. Various topics were on the conference agenda, ranging from technical solutions in manufacturing to research in policies for system changes – all topics playing a role in building a sustainable economy based on renewable bio-resources.
A melting pot of expertise
SusValueWaste organised the Research and Innovation Pathways Towards a Circular Bio-economy (NoRest) conference together with CYCLE and BioSmart, two other large Bionær-research projects funded by The Research Council of Norway. Although these projects have bio-economy as a overall theme, they differ in focus areas and the expertise represented in the projects teams. By joining forces, the three projects attracted 100 participants with a rich two-day programme of interesting key note speakers and presentations of new research findings from numerous disciplines. Since the bio-economy includes several sectors, cross-disciplinary collaboration is especially important in order to come up with solutions suited for the future.
Unlocking the potential in the Nordic bio-economy
Lene Lange, professor at Technical University of Denmark kick-started the conference by arguing that we can create a world leading bio-economy based in the Nordic countries. For example, she drew attention to the strong position of the pulp and paper industry in Finland, and the Norwegian salmon industry with side stream potentials and its growing demand for fish feed. In addition, Lange mentioned promising opportunities of green and blue small-scale bio-refineries. These are low investment initiatives that can answer the challenges in transporting organic material long distance. A green and local bio-refinery can for example produce nutritious fibre for cattle feed and supply local famers with minerals for fertilizing the soil.
Business opportunities in rest-products from eggs
To increase the use of currently wasted bio-based resources, the CYCLE project has worked in close collaboration with different industry partners. Norilia, handling the plus-products of the Norwegian slaughterhouse Nortura, has developed ideas for making better use of the rest-materials from eggs. In collaboration with Biovotec, a start-up company, they are now able to use the membrane from inside the eggshell as an effective healing property in bandaids. The rest of the shells can also be a potent calcium fertilizer. Norilia is involved in several research projects to systematically turn all their rest materials into new profitable and sustainable ingredients.
Policies’ role in the transition
The bio-economy is a loosely defined concept and there is an ongoing discussion what it actually is. Researchers in the SusValueWaste project have identified three visions represented in the bio-economy. These visions have different orientations; technological, resource or sustainability focused, and these can be both complementary and conflicting. This could be helpful insights for the governments in the Nordic region when they are making policies for steering the direction of the future bio-economy. The governance challenge is to combine these different orientations in the best way possible.
Looking into the bio-economy fortune ball
The bio-economy is critical for several reasons: the need for sustainable resource use, the growing demand for both food and energy, and the need to decouple economic growth from environmental degradation. But how do we get there? Both SusValueWaste and Biosmart have started foresight studies inviting relevant stakeholders to draw scenarios of the future bio-economy. The aim is to use these scenarios as guiding visions in evolving the bio-economy.
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