Bioeconomy in the Danube region

A look at Baden-Württemberg - first interim results of the DanuBioValNet project

One year after the launch of the "DanuBioValNet" project, part of the Interreg Danube Transnational Programme, the first results of the Baden-Württemberg partners are starting to come in. Two events - one on the topic of phytopharmaceuticals and the second dealing with biobased packaging - have already been completed.

The Interreg Danube Translational Programme’s ”DanuBioValNet” project aims to establish new biobased value chains. Under the leadership of BIOPRO Baden-Württemberg GmbH, 17 partners from 10 countries in the Danube region met on 1st January 2017 to pave the way for transnational collaboration in biobased industries. Regional cluster organisations are expected to drive forward the change from a fossil fuel-based industry to a biobased industry and participants will be given intensive training to help them initiate transnational networking in this sector.

Glossary

  • A base is a component of nucleic acids. There are four different bases: adenine, guanine (purines), cytosine and thymine or uracil (pyrimidines). In RNA, thymine is replaced by uracil.
  • Selection in a biological context means the assortment of organisms due to their characteristics. On the one hand, this could be natural selection ("survival of the fittest") like in evolutionary processes. On the other hand, selection by man, e.g. breeding, is called artificial selection. Artificial selection is also used in genetic engineering to identify a genetically modified organism due to its new characteristics (e.g. resistance to antibiotics).
  • Translation in a biological context is the process in which the base sequence of mRNA is translated into the amino acid sequence of a protein. This process takes place in the ribosomes. Based on a single mRNA molecule, many protein molecules can be synthesised.

Overview of Baden-Württemberg clusters active in biobased industries

Cluster initiatives can overcome many challenges in a biobased industry. Those related to the establishment of a biobased industry in the pharmaceutical sector are shown here. © Helga Hartmann-Wall / BIOPRO Baden-Württemberg GmbH

It has been shown that the Baden-Württemberg (BW) cluster landscape can be a major asset for a biobased industry. However, the clusters need to do more to focus on the emerging biobased industries and it is likely that some members stand to benefit significantly from a stronger biobased approach. With its highly skilled workforce and scientific infrastructure, BW has great potential to facilitate the shift from a fossil fuel-based industry to a biobased one. Special master’s degree courses in bioeconomics and the BBW ForWerts graduate programme produce highly qualified professionals for jobs in a biobased industry. Baden-Württemberg’s bioeconomy research strategy has a budget of around 13 million euros between 2014 and 2019. In addition, the biotechnology, environmental technologies and resource efficiency sectors are funded through Baden-Württemberg’s smart specialisation strategy and also focus on aspects related to biobased industries.

The project has identified the following initial challenges for BW: the framework conditions for cluster development need to be improved, especially with regard to facilitating biobased innovations in the industry. In order to achieve this, it will be necessary to reduce the resistance to change in the industry. This could be achieved by developing existing clusters further. In many cases, cluster managers are unaware of the benefits biobased product developments can have for their member companies. Another important objective is to strengthen the supply chains. Although BW has a strong profile at the market end of biobased value creation chains, there is still some work to be done with regard to the provision of raw material and initial processing steps. This means that transregional collaboration is crucial for BW in its effort to fully exploit the potential of future biobased industries. There is also the expectation that BW can benefit from developing cluster initiatives in those biobased industry sectors where BW is already active.

The mapping of cluster organisations

Based on reports from the ten participating countries on the current state of the partners’ biobased industry activities, the project consortium decided to focus on the following value chains because of their high potential for the Danube region: phytopharmaceuticals, biobased packaging and ecological construction.

Schematic representation of the links between the stakeholders of a particular economic sector that have been established through cluster initiatives. The analysis of an economic sector forms the basis for mapping the connections. © BIOPRO Baden-Württemberg GmbH

Mapping the BW cluster organisations dealing with phytopharmaceuticals, biobased packaging and ecological construction has revealed the following: Of the five cluster organisations in BW that are active in the broad field of the wood and furniture industry, two are specialised in ecological building construction. Their work involves increasing the overall number of companies involved in the cluster as well as covering as many stages of the value chain as possible.

There are no phytopharmaceutical industry cluster organisations in BW. However, there are more than 50 companies that are active in the field of phytopharmaceuticals, a sufficient number to make a cluster organisation viable. In addition to BW universities, BW companies are also very active in R&D. In order to gain in-depth insights into the BW phytopharmaceutical value chain, three companies were selected to provide detailed information of their experiences and expectations. The three companies attach greatest importance to providing more training in quality management and GACP regulations (GACP: good agricultural cultivation procedure) in the plant-producing countries (around 85% of all plants that the German phytopharmaceutical sector needs are imported). The companies also saw a need for organic seeds, special machines that facilitate harvesting, cleaning and further processing steps. Sustainable packaging solutions and the outsourcing of individual processing steps in the plant-producing countries were also seen as important. Cluster organisations, networks and/or associations that are able to strategically develop this important economic sector have the potential to contribute greatly to solving many common challenges.

What's next?

Over the next few months, roadmapping workshops will be held in the phytopharmaceutial, biobased packaging and ecological construction sectors. With the expert knowledge acquired in these workshops, the DanuBioValNet project will subsequently launch pilot actions in the second half of 2018. All relevant stakeholders (companies and possibly also research institutions) of the three aforementioned value creation chains will be brought together across the borders with the goal of achieving complete value chains.

Another desired goal of the project is to obtain, by the time the project comes to an end, the undertaking of all stakeholders involved to work together with the aim of producing an end product from the respective industrial sectors. In addition, all country-specific information – including on the implementation of previous biobased funding programmes – will be collected and brought together in a "Joint Biobased Cluster Policy Strategy", providing recommendations for improving the framework conditions for biobased innovations. To support this strategy, specific services will be offered to cluster managers with the goal of leading their companies towards sustainable biobased industries.

* The DanuBioValNet project is funded by the European Union (ERDF, IPA) under the Danube Translational Programme (DTP) and will receive around 2.3 million euros for a period of 30 months.

Website address: https://www.bio-pro.de/en/press/press-release/a-look-at-baden-wuerttemberg-first-interim-results-of-the-danubiovalnet-project/