Bio-based products can make the economy more sustainable and lower its dependence on fossil fuels. For this reason, the EU has declared the bio-based products sector to be a priority area with high potential for future growth, reindustrialisation, and addressing societal challenges. An assessment done by the European Commission has indicated that bio-based products and biofuels represent approximately €57 billion in annual revenue and involve 300 000 jobs. According to forecasts, the bio-based share of all chemical sales will rise to 12.3% by 2015 and to 22% by 2020, with a compounded annual growth rate of close to 20%.
What are bio-based products?
Bio-based products are wholly or partly derived from materials of biological origin, excluding materials embedded in geological formations and/or fossilised. In industrial processes, enzymes are used in the production of chemical building blocks, detergents, pulp and paper, textiles, etc. By using fermentation and bio-catalysis instead of traditional chemical synthesis, higher process efficiency can be obtained, resulting in a decrease in energy and water consumption, and a reduction of toxic waste. As they are derived from renewable raw materials such as plants, bio-based products can help reduce CO2 and offer other advantages such as lower toxicity or novel product characteristics (e.g. biodegradable plastic materials).
EU policies related to bio-based products
At European level, policies linked to bio-based products include the following:
- The EU’s industrial policy which aims to raise industry’s contribution to EU GDP to 20% by 2020 from the current level of 15%. The bio-based products sector, as a key enabling technology, is one of the priority areas with a high potential for future growth and addressing societal challenges.
- The Commission’s bioeconomy strategy and action plan aims at shifting the European economy towards a greater and more sustainable use of renewable resources. The second pillar of the strategy focuses on the development of markets and competitiveness in bioeconomy sectors (such as the bio-based product sector) by sustainably increasing primary production, conversion of waste streams into value-added products (bio-refineries), and mutual learning mechanisms for improved production and resource efficiency.
- The flagship initiative for a resource-efficient Europe under the Europe 2020 strategy supports the shift towards a resource-efficient low-carbon economy to achieve sustainable growth.
- The Circular Economy Package was created to help European businesses and consumers make the transition to a stronger and more circular economy where resources are used in a more sustainable way. The proposed actions contribute to 'closing the loop' of product lifecycles through greater recycling and re-use, and bring benefits for both the environment and the economy. This transition will be supported financially by ESIF funding, €650 million from Horizon 2020 (the EU funding programme for research and innovation), €5.5 billion from structural funds for waste management, and investments in the circular economy at national level.
- The European Innovation Partnerships (EIP) were launched under the Commission's Innovation Union flagship programme to accelerate the market take-up of innovations which address key challenges for Europe. Specifically:
- The EIP for Agricultural Productivity and Sustainability (EIP-AGRI) aims to promote competitive and sustainable agriculture and forestry that "achieves more from less". It contributes to ensuring a steady supply of food, feed, and biomaterials.
- The EIP on Raw Materials aims to achieve the transition to a circular economy by providing valuable lessons on how to boost recycling and the re-use of materials.
- The Commission’s Lead Market Initiative between 2008 and 2011 fostered the development of the bio-based products sector by exploring demand-side innovation policy tools such as standardisation, labelling, and public procurement. The main outcomes of this initiative were an interim report "Taking Bio-based from Promise to Market"; policy papers on financing and communications; and a list of priority recommendations (22 kB) for enabling the market uptake of bio-based products. In the framework of the Lead Market Initiative, the Commission issued several standardisation mandates to the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN):
The bio-based procurement publication page offers guidance to aid innovation in the field. The bio-based procurement website is more extensive. They both target procurers and others interested in procurement involving bio-based products. Bio-economy adds to economic growth, sustainability of industries and reduces fossil fuel dependence.
Commission Expert Group for Bio-based Products
A Commission Expert Group for Bio-based Products was set up in mid-2013 for an initial period of four years. According to its Terms of Reference (39 KB), the Expert Group's objective is to advise the Commission on the development of the bio-based products sector by:
- monitoring and supporting the development of the policy framework, and the implementation of the priority recommendations proposed by the Lead Market Initiative Ad-hoc Advisory Group for Bio-based Products.
- proposing demand-side industrial policy actions conducive to the market uptake of bio-based products and processes (standardisation, public procurement, awareness raising, labelling, etc.).
- mapping of bio-based products and relevant bioeconomy related activities and exchanging of good practices at regional, national, international, and EU-level aimed at increasing the competitiveness of European industry.
The Group has 34 appointed members representing EU countries and state agencies, public procurers, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), academia, and businesses. 7 observers also follow the Group's work.
For more information please consult the Commission's Expert Group Registry.
The Expert Group has also set up several Working Groups:
- Assessment of the State of Play of the Implementation of the Lead Market Initiative Priority Recommendations
- Public Procurement of Bio-based products
- Awareness Raising on Bio-based products
- Value added of Bio-based products
The Working Group 'Assessment of the State of Play of the Implementation of the Lead Market Initiative Priority Recommendations' issued its paper (651 KB) in September 2015.
The Working Group 'Awareness Raising' completed its general paper (412 KB) in February 2016.
On 2 December 2016, the Expert Group hosted a workshop on "Bio-based Products in a Circular Bioeconomy: Functionality and Sustainability". Bio-based products have the potential to contribute to EU objectives of sustainable growth and addressing societal challenges. The workshop aimed at presenting an overview of what information, standards and measurements are already available in terms of sustainability. It also offered an opportunity for participants to highlight and discuss topics where further answers and information about bio-based products are still needed.
The workshop agenda and the presentations give a first overview of the discussions. View the workshop report.
A position paper on the Commission's Bioeconomy Strategy and Action Plan Review and Revision was published in August 2017.
The outcome of the expert group's work is the final report. It contains policy advice for the sustainable development of a competitive bio-based products industry in Europe following the current policy objectives.
Meetings of the Expert Group:
- 22 September 2017 (Agenda (95 KB), Operational summary (341 KB))
- 7 April 2017 (Agenda (81 KB), Operational summary (261 KB))
- 2 December 2016 (Agenda (299 KB), Operational summary (333 KB))
- 20 May 2016 (Agenda (288 KB), Operational summary (253 KB))
- 11 December 2015 (Agenda (293 KB), Operational summary (309 KB))
- 29 May 2015 (Agenda (36 KB), Operational summary (61 KB))
- 12 December 2014 (Agenda (291KB), Operational summary (465 KB))
- 14 March 2014 (Agenda (274 KB), Operational summary (216 KB))
- 6 December 2013 (Agenda (140 KB), Operational summary (155 KB))
- 3 September 2013 (Agenda (23 KB), Operational summary (225 KB))