The bioeconomy is gaining in political importance in Norway and elsewhere in the world. The Norwegian Government launched its much awaited bioeconomy strategy Familiar resources- undreamt of possibilities (Kjente ressurser, uante muligheter) in late 2016. The strategy emphasises cross sectorial challenges, and draws up long term objectives for the bioeconomy.
SusValueWaste Policy Workshop at NIFU 25th of January
SusValueWaste organised a Policy Roundtable Workshop 25th January 2017 where participants were invited to discuss the content and goals of the Norwegian bioeconomy strategy. The workshop gathered diverse stakeholders, representing industry, research and policymaking bodies. The workshop addressed issues and questions for developing a bioeconomy in Norway – how Norway can exploit its strengths and which priorities and choices should be made. The Research Council of Norway and Innovation Norway were also present at the workshop, and are together with Siva given the mandate to draw up a common action plan for the implementation of the strategy.
Strong emphasis on cross-cutting cooperation
The workshop was introduced by Thomas Malla, senior adviser and coordinator of the bioeconomy strategy process at the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries. Mr. Malla presented the strategy’s content, goals and ambitions. The main aims of the strategy are to create more jobs, promote value creation, reduce climate emissions, and stimulate sustainable use of renewable bio-based resources. Mr Malla highlighted that the strategy uses a broad understanding of the bioeconomy concept, acknowledging the difficulty to reach a consensus on a single definition although a narrower definition has been used for specific topics. He mentioned that issues related to climate change are the main driving forces behind the strategy. At the same time, he emphasised that there is no clear agreement on how actually sustainability can best be achieved. A central concern of the government is to facilitate cross sectorial cooperation, cooperation across sectors, industries and thematic areas. In addition, the strategy suggests that policies should address markets from renewable bio-based products, efficient use and profitable processing of renewable, biological resources and sustainable production and extraction of renewable biological resources.
A need for system overview
When asked about the need for specific policy instruments, several participants representing industry and public administration argued for the need of stable and predictable policies based on solid knowledge and experience on the measures. For instance, it was mentioned that tax incentives are too unstable and may cause negative effects on competition. Another topic of discussion was about the need to measure the effect of different policy instruments. It was argued that, that there was currently an insufficient overview of the policy mix addressing the bioeconomy sector, and on how different types of policy instruments work together. It was further emphasised that the dominance of the oil and gas industry in Norway caused a non-level playing field for other sectors. In this context, it was emphasised that policy makers need a better understanding and better knowledge about the needs of new green sectors.
Suggested priority areas
Several participants highlighted public procurement as an essential instrument to create a market for bio-based products. Increased use of innovative and green public procurement was seen as important to create a marked in the early stages and for eliminating barriers to market entry. With regard to industry investments, the concern was raised for the insufficient funding for late stages of technological development, especially for up-scaling of pilot projects. This was seen as a problem present not only in Norway but in Europe as well. By using biorefineries as an example, it was argued that Europe practically functions as an incubator for technology projects which are then launched on a full scale in the US. This unfavourable dynamic was explained by the differences in the existing framework conditions in these two regions.
Waste and other residual materials from industries and households are of increasing value in today’s economy. Substances that have long represented a cost to the economy are now becoming a valuable resource. Exploiting the full potential of these resources requires increased innovation, systemic change as well as better regulation and governance.