Biosmart’s seminar at the NIBIO conference filled the premises with scientists from a variety of disciplines.

New technology creates several possibilities in the bio economy. Without the society at the same page though, a substantial shift towards a circular bio economy in Norway, will remain a political vision.

– The transition towards the bio economy, which means an economy based upon green, renewable resources, requires active involvement from politicians and the actors in the economy, says Magnar Forbord.

In addition to Forbord, Hilde Bjørkhaug, Jostein Brobakk and Frode Flemsæter, took place at the stage during the seance, where researchers from all over the country got an insight into Biosmart. The topics covered, were foresight, transitions, rights and the importance of politics in the bio economy.

Internationally important

One question from the audience was whether Norway was an interesting market.

Magnar Forbord
Magnar Forbord

– In the bio economy we are not just talking about Norway, this is an international phenomenon. An example we are studying is the forthcoming biogas plant at Skogn, which will produce methane for the buses in Trondheim of wastewater from paper production and waste from aquaculture. The technology needed for methane production, was imported to Trøndelag from Sweden, replied Forbord.

Cross sectoral

Norway’s wealth of natural resources provides a good starting point, but there are several barriers preventing us from reaching our potential in the bio economy. 

– Norway’s economy is deeply rooted in oil production, and new types of production require social acceptance, which takes time. In addition, the public expects government involvement, but a strong sectoral division hampers us politically, said Hilde Bjørkhaug.

Breaking down the sector boundaries is a key component in Biosmart.

– The government attributes great importance to cross sectoral cooperation, as well as the development of new markets and products, in their bio economy strategy. Today, ministries, directorates and organized interests operates independently of each other. If we are to achieve the goals in the bio economy strategy, we must break down these silos, Brobakk said.

Jostein Brobakk
Jostein Brobakk

In the need of meeting places

The audience questioned Biosmart’s and the government’s great emphasize on cross sectorial cooperation in the bio economy.

– Cross sectoral aligned policies does not mean you will have to merge departments and institutions. There are tools such as fees, laws, organization and research and development, that may work across sector boundaries, replied Forbord

Hilde Bjørkhaug believes we can have development both in and between sectors.

– The impression from our workshops is that people from different sectors want to work together, she said.

Rights, values and the ocean

Frode Flemsæter
Frode Flemsæter

The last topic at the Biosmart seminar was rights concerning bioprospecting. Norway’s prosperity depends upon the premise that those who exploit our natural resources, also pays for it. One example is oil extraction on the Norwegian shelf, where the oil drilling companies pays taxes to the Norwegian state.

– Today, anyone can harvest untraditional marine bioresources without the government claiming any revenues. Therefore, it is important to establish a regulatory framework that ensures revenues for the welfare state. At the same time, the framework should not prevent development of new products from biological resources found in the sea, said Flemsæter.

One question that came forward was whether Norway has been naïve concerning our marine resources.

– I think the answer comes when the government have the finished regulation proposal in place. The authorities are aware of the problem, and the first regulatory proposal came into place in 2013, Flemsæter answered.