BioSmart: Managing the transition to a smart bioeconomy (2015-2018)

Centre for Rural Research, Trondheim is delighted to announce that we have been awarded the 40 Million kroner project “BioSmart: managing the transition to a smart bioeconomy” in collaboration with key partners Bioforsk, Skog og landskap, NORUT, Sintef and NTNU – along with a number of other national and international organisations.

Biosmart is funded from the Research Council of Norway’s Program BIONÆR (2012-2021) that calls for a “visionary framework” for the development of a sustainable bioeconomy in Norway. Bioeconomic development is about more than a continuation of current directions in the farming, forestry and fisheries sectors. Rather it is about a societal shift from an economy based on non-renewable resources to an economy based on resources that can be grown (forestry) or farmed (farming, fisheries). To do this, Norway needs to develop technologies capable of transforming biomass into the raw inputs for agriculture, industry and production (such as biomass to fuel, fish food, and so on). In addition, the development of a bioeconomy will place different needs on the bio-production sectors and the people that work the land and oceans.

The bioeconomy will be part of the development of Norwegian society and economy over the coming decades. Norway’s biomass riches promise a potential replacement for a diminishing oil supply, but the question is how do we best manage them? Here Biosmart recognises two main points. First, that there is not a single pathway to bioeconomic development, but many possible pathways and, likewise, while some outcomes would be very positive, others may not. Managing the transition process is therefore critical. Second, currently the bio-sectors operate independently of each other – doing independent research, making independent investment decisions, operating in different regions, being influenced by different policies, and so on. To develop a “smart” (knowledge based and wisely managed) bioeconomy we need to think of how these sectors can work together in the future. If we can achieve this, investments can be made that help all sectors involved in the bioeconomy integrate – thus cutting waste, optimising the knowledge sector of Norway, and leading to a more sustainable economy.

As a major research exercise, Biosmart covers many aspects of this transition. The key component will be a foresight analysis of 1500 Norwegian businesses to ascertain what the needs of the five key biosectors (farming, forestry, fisheries, bioscience, industry) are and where there is potential for integration. At the same time we will use case studies to look at how technology transitions in the biosector developed in the past and issues that needed to be overcome. Social acceptability of bioeconomy outcomes will be a critical part of the analysis, as will the issue of how bioeconomic development affects and is affected by rights issues in Norway (e.g. property and IP rights). Two partner organisations will look at issues that facilitate bioeconomic development namely, resource distribution and possible economic outcomes (NORUT) and the optimal location of development (Skog og landskap/Sintef), while Bioforsk and NTNU will explore the impact of bioeconomic development on greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity and energy efficiency. Finally, we will explore policies that might facilitate the development of a smart bioeconomy in Norway.

Our aim in Biosmart is to begin an important (and informed) public debate on this issue as well as to produce high quality science. We want to include the whole of Norwegian society in this project – from small and large businesses, farmers, foresters, the general public, and politicians, to all who share an interest in Norway’s sustainable economic development. Consequently a key output of the project will be an edited book to provide a centre-piece for the public and scientific debates that will no doubt emerge in the coming decades.