Meeting Policy Challenges for a Sustainable Bioeconomy

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This publication investigates key aspects surrounding the sustainability of bioeconomy development: the use of biomass as feedstock for future production;  the design and building of biorefineries for the manufacture of a range of fuels, chemicals and materials, and also for electricity generation; and the use of biotechnologies such as synthetic biology, metabolic engineering and gene editing.

Today more than 50 countries have a dedicated bioeconomy strategy or related policies. While the bioeconomy is consistent with sustainability policy (examples are the circular economy, the UN Sustainable Development Goals, green growth, re-industrialisation, rural regeneration, climate change mitigation), synergies must be ensured to avoid over-exploitation of natural resources and conflicting global needs.



Financing biorefineries

This chapter concentrates on the “commercialisation” and “scalable production” phases of biorefineries, i.e. demonstration and full-scale production. First-of-kind projects are high risk, and financing options dry up as a project approaches “scalable production”. The early stage in the era of biorefining faces multiple barriers, including technical issues, public opinion, lack of supply, and value chains and lack of trained personnel. Small- to medium-scale biorefining is often cast as a rural manufacturing activity to be close to feedstocks such as agricultural products and residues and forestry. However, this smaller-scale distributed model competes directly with some of the largest global (and fossil-based) manufacturing industries. These factors, alongside lack of confidence in public policy, add up to high levels of financial risk in biorefineries for the private sector. This has led to various forms of public-private partnerships to give the private sector concrete commitment from governments in order to make biorefineries a production mode of the future.


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