Yesterday, the 12th of March, the Government published the first National Policy Statement on the Bioeconomy.
Project Ireland 2040, the Government’s €116 billion development plan for the next decade, which is underpinned by a 20 year planning framework, highlights the potential of the bioeconomy in promoting the more efficient use of renewable resources while supporting economic development and employment in rural Ireland.
The bioeconomy relates to the production of renewable biological resources and the conversion of these resources and waste streams into value added products, such as food, and bio-energy. It cuts across a range of sectors, including agriculture, the marine, forestry, water and waste management, energy, as well as biopharmaceuticals.
This National Policy Statement sets out a vision, common principles, strategic objectives, and a framework for implementation to deliver on this vision for the bioeconomy in Ireland.
Announcing the National Policy Statement, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar T.D., stated,
‘The Government wants Ireland to be a global leader for the bioeconomy. We will achieve this by harnessing Ireland’s natural resources and competitive advantage. We also need to move beyondsimply focussing on compliance to integrating sustainable economic development into our economic model as we transition to a low carbon economy.
Industry has not been slow in recognising the potential of the bioeconomy and a number of Irish based companies are developing commercial opportunities in this area. Coupled with major Government investment in the bioeconomy over recent months, this Statement will help to drive implementation and I look forward to hearing back from the Implementation Group on progress made by the end of the year.’
The potential benefits for Ireland from the bioeconomy – to contribute to climate change mitigation, promote rural employment and drive economic development – are well recognised. Ireland also has significant strengths and comparative advantages in the bioeconomy including a number of well established and early stage companies that are promising pioneers in the bioeconomy as well as a growing research capacity. However, there is scope to promote further development to realise the full potential of the bioeconomy for Ireland.
In this context, the National Policy Statement, the outcome of extensive consultation, outlines the key actions needed to expand the bioeconomy, including:
- promoting greater coherence between the many sectors of the bioeconomy;
- strengthening the development of promising bio-based products and growing the relevant markets for them; and
- accessing funding available at EU level as well as leveraging private investment.
These actions can only be progressed by cooperation and collaboration between the public service, industry and the research institutes. The Government has mandated an implementation group jointly chaired by the Departments of Agiculture, Food and Marine and Communications, Climate Action and Environment to take forward a number of major actions, in close collaboration with bioeconomy industries and other partners, and report back to Government within a year.
Commenting on the National Policy Statement, Minister Creed, T.D., said,
‘The bioeconomy offers real potential for our agriculture, food and marine sectors – to grow their businesses and diversify their product base, which is ever more important in the context of Brexit and to make a tangible contribution to environmental sustainability, decarbonising our economy and rural employment and development.
This Statement is about ensuring we take the right policy actions to support its development.’
Welcoming the National Policy Statement, Minister Naughten, T.D., commented,
‘Developments in the bioeconomy can make a major difference to our reliance on carbon and this Policy Statement strongly demonstrates Government’s commitment to realising this potential. But more than that, it ensures a coordinated approach – so that we can realise the full range of benefits of the bioeconomy for Ireland – from climate change mitigation to jobs and rural development.
My Department has a great interest in the bioeconomy as it promotes better use of our natural resources through adding value in a sustainable manner.’
He added that,
‘It also is a potentially very profitable area of innovation that plays to Ireland’s strengths in agriculture, food processing and pharma.’
Notes for the Editor
- The bioeconomy relates to the production of renewable biological resources and the conversion of these resources and waste streams into value added products, such as food, and bio-energy.
- The bioeconomy cuts across a range of sectors, including agriculture, the marine, forestry, water and waste management, energy, as well as biopharmaceuticals.
- Government has established an Implementation Group comprising relevant Departments and agencies to progress the key actions identified in this Statement and the Group is to report back to Government by end 2018.
Membership of the Group, which is co-chaired by the Departments of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and Communications, Climate Action and Environment, will include the Departments of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Rural and Community Development as well as Transport, Tourism and Sport.
The actions to be progressed by the Group over 2018 include:
- Ensure that there is coherence between all sectoral strategies which impact on the bioeconomy in Ireland.
- Establish a network comprised of representatives of commercial entities operating within the bioeconomy and relevant public bodies to inform the future development of the bioeconomy - this network may make additional recommendations to be followed up; (This could also include the sharing of best practice regarding applications for BBIJU, SC-2 and H2020 funding).
- Encourage the translation of research into real world applications through promoting collaboration between research institutions (academia) and industry - through the use of pilots/demonstrations at the model demonstrator facilities (Lisheen site, the Marine Research Cluster in Connemara).
- Assess the current legislative definition of waste and recommend whether a redesignation is necessary for residual waste flows to be successfully managed for use in the bioeconomy.
- Ensure greater sectoral coherence within the bioeconomy through the development of risk assessment and management protocols regarding the use of by-products which encourages the piloting of opportunities.
- Progress the leading value chain propositions identified in the Bio-Eire project by establishing the conditions required for their commercial viability and how these might be fulfilled.Examine how greater primary producer, public and consumer awareness of the bioeconomy and its products could be built up - through knowledge transfer, advisory, sustainable business models, public procurement, consumer awareness campaigns and product labelling initiatives etc.