Bioeconomy on the Nordic Agenda

In 2014, the Icelandic Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers has put bioeconomy at the top of the Nordic political agenda, stating that the Nordic countries have excellent potential for creating a sustainable bioeconomy, with positive effects on regional development. There are three arguments behind this statement. First, the Nordic countries are rich in biotic natural resources. Second, they have well-functioning institutions and well-developed cross-border co-operation. Finally, they have the requisite competence and research capacity. In this issue of Nordregio News, we look at the current situation regarding the bioeconomy in the Nordic countries.

The Nordic region contains a multitude of biotic natural resources, from the marine environments off the Icelandic and Norwegian coasts to the vast forests of Finland and Sweden and the fertile agricultural soils in Denmark. Hence, each Nordic country has special strengths and comparative advantages. There are also differences in the extent to which the bioeconomy is prioritized on the political agenda. So far, Iceland and Finland are the forerunners in this regard. Iceland's prioritization of the bioeconomy has already been mentioned. In Finland, with its strong forest sector, the phrase 'superpower in bioeconomy' is used. The Finnish Bioeconomy Strategy was launched in 2014, and is based on a broad-based national project set up by the Ministry of Employment and the Economy. In Denmark, the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries has established a national bioeconomy panel with the task of promoting Denmark as a centre for science, technology and production in a sustainable bioeconomy. Moreover, Norway and Sweden offer several good practical examples of implementation of a bioeconomy, as described in the following articles.

Behind the term 'bioeconomy' lies a political ambition. It is not only the integration of traditional primary sectors such as agriculture, forestry and fisheries with the biotech industry, but something more. First, it is the ambition of replacing fossil fuel and other limited resources with "the production of renewable biological resources and the conversion of these resources and waste streams in value added products", as stated by the European Commission in its strategy entitled Innovation for sustainable growth: A bioeconomy for Europe. Second, the bioeconomy is expected to boost the productivity of agricultural and industrial processes, as stated in an OECD report entitled The Bioeconomy to 2030: Designing a policy agenda. Finally, in the Arctic region, the bioeconomy plays a definite role in the development of sparsely populated areas where for a long time people have lived by utilizing biotic natural resources, as stated in a forthcoming report financed by the Nordic Council of Ministers, Future opportunities for bioeconomy in the West Nordic region.

In the first article of this issue, Bioeconomy in the Nordic Regions, Jukka Teräs takes us through the current situation regarding the Nordic bioeconomy, looking especially from the viewpoint of regional development. The article is based on an in-depth Nordic regional study on bioeconomy conducted in 2014.

Gunnar Lindberg and Jukka Teräs take us to Örnsköldsvik in the second article, Bioeconomy and the Regional Economy: Örnsköldsvik Biorefinery Cluster, which takes a closer look at one case from the in-depth study described in the first article.

In the third article, Views on Finnish and Nordic Bioeconomy, we interview Kaisu Annala from the Ministry of Employment and the Economy in Finland. We ask her about what new regional opportunities the bioeconomy can offer, to what extent the bioeconomy is prioritized in Finland and how the Nordic countries can learn from each other.

For Nordregio, the bioeconomy is currently a prioritized theme. This issue of Nordregio News is based on work conducted for the Nordic Working Group on Green Growth - Innovation and Entrepreneurship under The Nordic Council of Ministers' Committee of Senior Officials for Regional Policy. It is also a main topic at the Second Nordregio Forum in Keflavik, Iceland, on 12-13 November, where mapping the bioeconomy and the ways in which new innovative use of local natural resources can contribute to regional economic growth and development are hot topics.

We hope you enjoy reading this issue, and we are looking forward to seeing you at the Nordregio Forum in Keflavik.

Kjell Nilsson

Director

and the Editorial Board

Back to Nordregio News Issue 4, 2014