Nordic bioeconomy is strengthened through science–stakeholder collaboration. That is the view of the SNS network BioWiseTrans, and the network contributed to that in their first meeting.
The meeting of the BioWiseTrans network, coordinated by Nordregio, took place 8-10 January in the picturesque region of North Karelia in Eastern Finland, a Nordic “power house” in the inclusive transition towards a new bioeconomy.
The meeting was hosted by Natural Resources Institute Finland and gathered partners from Karlstad and Oslo Universities and the Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research. Different stakeholders from Finland, Norway and Sweden joined us: Paper Province 2.0 Värmland, the Swedish Bioenergy Association Svebio, Hedmark County and Finnish companies.
Nordregio researchers shared results from a chapter on the fast-emerging Nordic bioeconomy featuring the upcoming State of the Nordic Region Report.
Challenges of data collection and different types of data and data sources were discussed. A widely shared perspective emerged that complementary approaches might be in place – data harmonisation and consistency in relation to different resources, value-added approaches and employment – plus a “Regional bioeconomy system” approach that probes into local circuits, synergies, closed loops, recycling, etc.
Participants got to know the Finnish Biomass Atlas and its application in assessing regional impacts of the uses of biomass.
Non-wood forest products as part of the bioeconomy (e.g. berries and mushrooms) as well as governance and local strategies fostered through place-based participatory models in Finland were also on the menu.
The forest capital of Europe
During a visit of the Joensuu science park, we learned a great deal about Joensuu as the Forestry Capital of Europe and the activities of the science park that includes its incubation program turning ideas into businesses and workplaces for the local economy.
A stakeholder from the Pielinen Karelia Development Center gave insights on the importance of the bioeconomy for the region and their activities to foster and manifest activities in the area, through projects, network building, construction of infrastructure and education.
Since the BioWiseTrans meeting was joined by different stakeholders from different countries, we used the opportunity to discuss about what actually constitutes the new bioeconomy, the topics the network should focus on (e.g. land-use conflicts, everyman’s right & impacts in different Nordic countries) and how stakeholders wish to be engaged in research.
The role of the researcher
A controversy discussion about local initiatives kick-starting activities was held. Projects like BioWiseTrans should kick-off long term projects to render policy change possible. Research should try to determine/increase understanding of what forces are most important in the bioeconomy transition, support schemes, markets, technical development, incentives (e.g. tax), capacity of people etc. At the project planning phase, tasks for companies need to be ”real”, researchers need to know and tackle issues relevant for companies, too. The everyman’s right and impacts in different Nordic countries as well as alternatives to the right was also intensively discussed.
During the second day the upcoming meetings of BioWiseTrans, how to strengthen the nascent PhD network and, above all, focus and content of an ongoing H2020 proposal were discussed, taking the discussions from the previous day into consideration.
We all look forward for the next meeting in Norway in June.