OECD BNCT Task Force on Industrial Futures
OECD BNCT

Project on Bio-Production for a Bioeconomy (OECD BNCT)

Thirty countries either have a dedicated bioeconomy strategy or policies consistent with developing a bioeconomy. Bieconomy strategies seek to gradually replace fossil-based with bio-production, representing a major change in existing energy and materials regimes. Such a transition would help address several grand challenges for humanity – climate change mitigation, energy security, and resource depletion.

Expanding bio-based production requires policy inputs at the upstream research, R&D and deployment stages. A number of policy challenges sit underneath BNCT’s work in this area:

  • Sustainability: international policy alignement on standards in order to help reconcile food/feed and industrial needs of the future.
  • Capacity building in industrial biotechnology especially in biorefinery scale-up finance: de-risking, debt management, innovative PPPs
  • Bio-based materials: competing with fuels in integrated biorefineries
  • Promoting the use of waste streams

Replacing the Oil Barrel

A motivation now is to try to produce bio-based chemicals, plastics and textiles through cellulosic feedstocks as well as food crops. The chemicals and materials industries provide far more jobs and value-added than fuels production. However, there is a very large range of chemicals in use and there has been scepticism about the ability of bio-production to address this diversity i.e. to replace the oil barrel, albeit slowly.

A product of this works stream will be a policy blueprint for bio-based materials production. This work stream is examining what the current realities of bio-based materials production are, the range of products being addressed and what Technology Readiness Levels they are at. And, of course, the policy to enable this landmark change for the chemicals industry is being explored.

In support of this stream there will be a joint workshop with the International Risk Governance Council in London on bio-production regulation in January 2016.

Biomass Sustainability

Sustainability in bio-production requires greater equity of wealth distribution, greater energy security and a means to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Poor policy could lead to over-exploitation and further degradation of land, deforestation, water shortages, worsening climate change, international disputes and trade wars, even warlordism and violent conflict.

  • At a previous workshop in 2014 (“Sustainable biomass drives the next bioeconomy: a new industrial revolution?”), a major conclusion was that the OECD would be a good locus for a Platform for Biomass Sustainability, a place where countries can bring their successes and challenges, and where the options for a new international biomass dispute settlement mechanism could be discussed. This idea was sketched out in the issues paper, “An OECD Biomass Sustainability Platform”. This paper constitutes part of the output in this work stream for Biennium 2015-16. It summarises some of the issues at stake to deliver this platform.
  • “Genomics for sustainable development in emerging economies: food, environment, and industry”. This workshop report examines the ultimate quandary of a bioeconomy: reconciling food security with industrial use of biomass, with a particular focus on Asia, where rapidly expanding economies will be faced with difficult challenges. A further output will be a workshop report from a workshop being held at the Global Bioeconomy Summit in Berlin in November 2015. This workshop will have a focus on bioeconomy policy in developing economies.

Biorefinery Models & Policy

This work stream analyses the technical and policy dimensions of world-leading biorefineries for second generation fuels and bio-based materials. In the chemicals industry, scale-up has proceeded through pilot- and demonstrator-scale for sound technical and economic reasons. Industrial bio-production will involve an unprecedented level of scale-up before achieving bio-production in the future in the so-called ‘integrated biorefinery’. Industry wants two things of the public-sector in order to create better conditions for investment:

  1. Policy stability and coherence;
  2. Public-private partnerships (PPPs).

In addition to analysing innovative approaches, this work stream identifies outstanding policy issues and will produce a guidance document for the drafting of national or regional biorefinery roadmaps.

  • “Municipal waste utilisation in bio-based production: Issues paper”. This paper was specifically requested as waste utilisation becomes an ever-more important political priority.

In support of this work stream there will be a workshop at Ecomondo, Rimini on biowaste biorefining in November 2015.

Latest Bio-Production News

Innovation for a Sustainable Bioeconomy: a BNCT Workshop

Posted by Jim Philp on May 11, 2016

Monumental events of 2015 have placed bioeconomy and sustainable development at their highest ever level of political visibility. The world is now on a course to drastically reduce emissions, and there are very few options for doing so. A price on carbon and eliminating fossil fuel subsidies will not work alone. New technologies are essential to this future economy.

Bio-based production has its place, but It would be one thing to create a bioeconomy, quite another to be sure that it is a sustainable bioeconomy. Enter industrial biotechnology and synthetic biology. Bioenergy and biofuels have been the big policy targets. Bio-based production of chemicals, plastics and textiles has lots to offer in a bioeconomy, but have been relatively ignored in policy.

This workshop examines some technology and sustainability issues. Synthetic biology is one of the platform technologies that offers much. However, feeding the biocatalysts needs sustainable feedstocks. New feedstocks need new supply chains. Suddenly the issue becomes one of systems innovation.

On the policy side, capacity building in industrial biotechnology and bioeconomy is an essential starting point. One popular public policy option in Europe has been the creation of competitive clusters. This model seems suited to industrial biotechnology as farmers form key stakeholders. Europe also now has its public private partnership for the bio-based industries. And the European Commission has been busily mobilising for a bioeconomy.

This workshop takes place on the afternoon of May 25. See the flyer for more details.

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