"Understanding where a country is in the development of the bioeconomy is the first step to be taken in order to then define the prospects, write the direction and finally reach the goals."
We deepen our understanding of bioeconomy with Fabio Fava, Scientific and Technical Coordinator of the "National Coordination Group for the Bioeconomy" active at the "National Biosafety, Biotechnology and Life Sciences Committee" (CNBBSV) of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers. Fabio is also the Scientific Coordinator of the National Bioeconomy Strategy (BIT and BIT II) and the attached Implementation Plan, drafted at the Presidency of the Council of Ministers in the years 2017, 2019 and 2021.
Build a bioeconomy common vision that connects sectors
Currently, there is no constant and structured perception of bioeconomy and its core sectors, such as agrifood, forestry and biomaterials and bioplastics, blue bioeconomy or the valorisation of waste, however, it is difficult to imagine those sectors to be valued under the same hat.
In this context, one of the activities of the Coordination Boards is also to connect sectors, build awareness and knowledge of the bioeconomy meta-sector.
A facilitation in this task is represented by the fact that there is a general interest given both by economic and employment interests but also by the territorial opportunities that bioeconomy offers. To these are added the environmental interests in the achievement of European objectives as well as obviously those related to the production of food and clean water.
But, Fabio concludes: ”We need to connect the sectors and promote Bioeconomy as an intersectorial opportunity and widely at the territorial, national and EU level, otherwise it remains outside the strategies”.
A concrete example of this is that the EU Farm2Fork and Biodiversity strategies do not include the word bioeconomy!
Italian bioeconomy as a model of public-private partnership
In Fabio’s view, the Italian Coordination Board works well because it has been able to encompass public-private actors of all major sectors of the bioeconomy along with the core representatives of most bioeconomy relevant ministries and of all national regional administrations. And also because the coordination of the Board is at the Presidency of Council of Ministers, which is above all involved Ministries and the Regional governments.
This is a substantial difference from other countries that have placed bio-economy coordination under a specific ministry
Multi-actor approaches in the policy-making and implementation processes
Fabio strongly believes that the stakeholder’s engagement is fundamental in the policy making process, because they are the actors who know the problem, who are implementing bioeconomy on their own territory of the country and every day, and thus they are of special importance for the board, to have it also well focused on the urgent R&I, policy and social needs.
He finally highlighted that, stakeholders are also the actors who adopt and implement the innovation. They are therefore valuable both for directing coordination and for the implementation of policies.
Increase the participation of farmers and producers
In Fabio’s perspective, the involvement practices are overall adequate, but the participation of primary producers and citizens remains to be implemented at national and European level.
However, this element is not indeed a national criticality but also a European one.
Fabio explained that with this purpose, the former BBI JU partnership has in fact carried out a study to investigate why only a very small number of European projects had farmers or fishermen on board in the consortia and to understand how to reverse the situation.
Next plans are geared towards solving this aspect as well as to engage more citizens in the codesigning of strategies and in the implementation of the products of the innovation.
Goal conflicts to be faced in Italy
The Bioeconomy in Italy is growing a lot, Fabio pointed out, at an economic and employment level, but there are still many critical issues and challenges to be faced such as the development of rural areas, the reduction of the abandonment of lands; forestry poorly exploited; 88% of the 58,000 Food&Drink companies with <9 employees, ⁓ 8,000 km of coastlines poorly exploited, reported Fabio.
Another critical element to be handle, in the Fabio’s view is in the recognition of bio-based products, currently still without a specific marketing codes.
Strengthen the link between citizen and bioeconomy
Fabio states that: “It is certainly necessary, first of all, to promote scientific sound information on the topics and then engage citizens and the young generation, via on place visits, conferences and debates to explain the basics, opportunities and practical advantages of the bioeconomy in a scientific way”.
This strategy also allows to collect suggestions, needs and strategic info to be exploited in the policy and R&I planning.
For this reason, Fabio concludes, the new Horizon Europe program incorporates in its various missions, opportunities and elements of social engagement, without which some innovations cannot be initiated and speculation stagnates and potentially increases.