March 3, 2016

How bioeconomy will change our future

Jussi Manninen

Programme director, bioeconomy and clean solutions, Ministry of Employment and the Economy

The global demand and supply equation has become increasingly difficult to solve. Although the industrial revolution gave rise to unprecedented growth in wealth, the increased pollution and overall scarcity in resources created by this development is testing the limits of our planet. New thinking is critical for the sustainable future of the globe.

We believe that bioeconomy represents new kind of thinking on how to live. It’s an economy based on a sustainable, resource-wise society. As a cross-cutting approach it has an effect on the whole society, linking food security and people’s wellbeing to the sustainable use of raw materials and natural resources.

The bioeconomy binds together technologies, markets, people and policies. It actively forges links between industries that previously had no connection, within a new, symbiotic relationship where one industry utilizes the by-products of another. More importantly, the bioeconomy brings together phenomena that have thus far been disparate: business and sustainability; ecosystem services and industrial applications; biomass and products for mainstream consumers.

Even though the bioeconomy harnesses innovations and industries, it is centrally about people – us – living our lives in a sustainable way. Everyday life, let’s say in 30 years’ time will look both very familiar and very new to us. There will be new products but they blend with elements from the past.

We can no longer consume energy or raw materials the way we have so far. Closed circles, materially efficient industrial symbioses and novel, bio-based raw materials and processes will be the cornerstones of the new, sustainable economy.

Finland can be seen as the bioeconomy pioneer, based on innovation, cooperation and its wide-ranging biobased industry cluster. New bioeconomy solutions from Finland will be based on the smart exploitation of biomasses and water resources, the development of the associated technologies, and high added value products and services. Sustainability comes naturally to us and we will continue to use our renewable natural resources in our traditional, wise and versatile way long into the future.

This column is based on a recent publication by VTT.

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