European Bioeconomy Scientific Forum 2023

Among others, a key part of the EBU presidency held by BOKU for 2023-2024 has been the organisation of the EBU scientific forum, the official in-person general meeting of all EBU representatives held biennially in combination with a scientific forum. Coming to its second edition, BOKU hosted the European Bioeconomy Scientific Forum 2023 – EBSF2023 thanks to the organisational effort of the Centre for Bioeconomy, making Vienna a hub for European stakeholders involved in the bioeconomy field.

The event, which took place at the university campus of Türchenschanze on 6-8 September 2023, was the first EBU forum held in person, following a first edition organised online in 2021 by the previous EBU chair, the University of Hohenheim. Under the theme “Moving towards the transformation”, the forum summarised almost a year of successful work under BOKU’s direction, providing a platform to strengthen EBU’s coordination and engagement, while also fostering networking and intensifying collaborations between the different stakeholders involved in the bioeconomy field on the European level.

More information on the event can be found on the EBSF 2023 website or the EBSF2023 report.

The bioeconomy as a contribution to a sustainable bio-based circular economy: how the transformation can succeed

We organised our online event with the widest reach on 30.11.2021 together with the Environment Agency Austria on behalf of the Federal Ministry for Climate Action, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology (BMK) under the motto "The bioeconomy as a contribution to a sustainable biobased circular economy: how the transformation can succeed".

The event was divided into three thematic blocks: In the first thematic block, "Where do we stand?", Peter Wehrheim, Head of the "Bioeconomy and Food Systems" Unit of the European Commission's Directorate-General for Research and Innovation, first gave an insight into the developments of the bioeconomy perspective at European level. Subsequently, Gottfried Lamers from the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management presented the genesis of the Austrian bioeconomy strategy and the packages of measures and lighthouses based on it. In order to also take a look at practice, Thomas Timmel, Managing Director of BioBASE - an innovation platform in the field of bioeconomy and circular economy for networking business, science, administration and politics - was invited to provide a foray into the current activities of the bio-based industry in Austria.

The second thematic block "Where are we going?" was introduced by a very exciting keynote speech by Christiane Grefe, journalist at the German weekly newspaper "Die Zeit" and author of numerous non-fiction books. In a critical analysis of the status quo, she showed that the transformation towards a bioeconomy is a very complex topic (see picture gallery).

Afterwards, the participants were asked to interactively participate in one of three breakout sessions focusing on social, ecological and economic challenges. The breakout sessions were accompanied by moderators (Helmut Frischenschlager and Silvia Benda-Kahri from the Environment Agency Austria and Rainer Haas from BOKU). In the three groups, the most important challenges and corresponding solution approaches for the future were worked out in the respective topic areas. The results of the social and ecological challenges - as well as the presentation by Ms. Grefe - were graphically prepared in parallel and can be read here (see picture gallery). With regard to the economic challenges, Rainer Haas (BOKU) first discussed the problem context in detail in a keynote speech before challenges and solutions were worked out.

In the third thematic block, "How do we get there?", the results from the breakout sessions were first presented and discussed by the moderators. Afterwards, the moderator Marlene Nowotny from ORF took up questions from the audience from the chat, which were answered by the presenters.

The large number of participants from many areas of the bioeconomy in all regions of Austria (and also internationally!) fostered lively discussions in both the breakout and main sessions, and shows that while the bioeconomy is an important building block for the transformation towards a sustainable bio-based circular economy, there are still major challenges to be overcome on the way there.