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What is bioeconomy, and why develop one?

Global trends such as increasing population, scarcity of resources and materials, and climate change are putting more and more pressure on our fossil resources. To alleviate this pressure, many leading countries and regions such as the European Union, the United States, Japan, India, Brazil, and China are strongly committed to the development of a more sustainable economy: the bioeconomy.

Although the exact definition of the concept of the bioeconomy is under discussion, this green economy is based on a number of basic aspects.

Firstly, the bioeconomy will rely on renewable biomass rather than fossil input to produce a wide range of products, including food, animal feed, pharmaceuticals, plastics, bioenergy, ...

Two, these bio-based products will be produced, as much as possible, according to the cascade principle. This cascade principle implies that biomass is first used for applications with the highest possible value, after which the residual flows are used as input for a subsequent application.

Three, the bioeconomy therefore produces no waste. The final residual flow from a bio-refinery process can be processed in soil-improving applications, which makes the bioeconomy as circular as possible.

The bioeconomy can therefore be seen as a collection of sectors and sub-sectors such as food, feed, chemicals, energy and fuels, and pharmaceuticals that all work together to produce products derived from renewable sources. As an applied research institute for agriculture, fisheries and food, ILVO wants to play an important role in creating and building knowledge that will facilitate the transition of the Flemish economy towards the bioeconomy.

Applied research to inspire new paths towards a Flemish bioeconomy

In the transition towards the bioeconomy, Flanders is confronted with a number of specific challenges and opportunities, within which the agri-business complex plays an important role. As an applied research institute with a focus on agriculture, fisheries and food in Flanders, ILVO wants to play an important role in building knowledge that can help facilitate the transition to a Flemish bioeconomy.

We focus on the sustainable valorisation of both medium and large local biomass streams. The medium-sized streams are of great relevance for Flanders, given the small and medium-sized farms and food and feed companies.

An integrated chain approach is essential to strengthen the inter-relationship between primary production and biobased industries.

Through a systemic perspective, the aim is to close cycles better, both locally and globally. Economic, social and ecological trade-offs are analysed and potential win-win scenarios are identified.

ILVO believes in the power of a multi-actor approach and is well-placed to tackle the bioeconomy challenges with more than 600 well-trained, multidisciplinary staff working in local, national and international projects.

Given the multidisciplinarity of our institute, research is conducted in an integrated manner and coordinated at various levels. Our focus in bioeconomy research is in 4 clusters:

  1. System innovation - facilitating the transition from agrifood to bioeconomy
  2. Sustainable use of natural resources
  3. Primary production of biomass
  4. Optimal valorisation of locally processed biomass
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