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The transition to a sustainable bio-economy: innovation and expectations

  • Start date: 01 October 2007
  • End date: 31 March 2010

How can innovation both enhance economic growth and achieve sustainability through the development of renewable biologically-based resources to provide alternatives to petrochemical-based platforms for energy and materials? The combination of drivers to reduce dependence on depleting petrochemical resources; to reduce negative environmental impacts, notably climate change; to create significant new market opportunities for biotechnologies; and to improve energy security, constitute an historically novel impetus to innovation. A transition to a bio-economy raises biology and agriculture to a strategic economic significance that could not have been imagined twenty years ago.

The research compares contrasting bio-economy developments in Brazil, the USA and Europe. It will examine the diverse challenges, obstacles and potentials faced by countries endowed with different resources, natural and human. The bio-economy embraces innovation in new and ecologically sustainable agricultural inputs (biomass residues or new dedicated crops); new biological processes of converting biomass (biorefinery); and new biological products.

The research also explores new geographically distributed collaborations between firms, between firms and the science base, and the emergence of new bioeconomy firms and markets.

A key aspect of the research is the collaborative partnership between social scientists in Essex and Manchester and the Bioscience for Business Knowledge Transfer Network.