The bioeconomy could play a significant role in Europe’s recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, if governments and industries capitalize on shifting demands and priorities, adapt to the new funding realities and learn some lessons regarding prevention rather than adaptation
From businesses developing technological solutions to face the COVID-19 outbreak to companies producing biodegradable plastic products for hospitals and retail chains: many bio-based activities have proved to be crucial during the novel coronavirus pandemic and are coping better with the economic effects of lockdowns than others.
The European bioeconomy has an annual turnover of around 2 trillion euro and employs almost 18 million people. It represents industries and research organisations that use renewable biological resources from crops, forests, animals and microorganisms to produce food, materials and energy.
Analysts think that the sector, with its forward-looking vision for sustainable growth, can be one of the driving forces behind the economic recovery of the European Union.
According to Tévécia Ronzon, a researcher at the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC), the diversity of the EU bioeconomy is its strength creating the potential for some sectors hit harder by a crisis like COVID-19 to be buffered by those that are not.
This was observed in past crisis’s such as the financial crash of 2008-2009. In Greece during this time, the job losses in the bioeconomy were not as dramatic as losses in the overall economy. “Employment in agriculture even increased in 2009 and 2010 compared to 2008, thereby recruiting people that had lost their job in other sectors,” explained Ronzon. An opposite trend was observed for secondary employing sectors of the bioeconomy, such as the manufacturing of food, beverages and tobacco. According to her, this example suggests that the diversity of activities in bioeconomy value chains facilitates adaptations to crisis events.
Ronzon was one of several experts to present at a webinar, hosted by the EU project BioMonitor together with the International Consortium on Applied Bioeconomy Reasearch (ICABR), on the importance of the bioeconomy in the post-COVID-19 future.
Carl Pray, a professor in the Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics Department at Rutgers University in the US, believes that the pandemic has created opportunity and demand for new innovations, citing an uptick in research on zoonotic disease and of course, vaccines and treatments for coronavirus.
Source: iCube Programme