The EU defines bioeconomy as “… encompassing the sustainable production of renewable resources from land, fisheries and aquaculture environments and their conversion into food, feed, fiber and biobased products and bioenergy as well as the related public goods. It includes agriculture, forestry, fisheries, food and pulp and paper production, as well as parts of chemical, biotechnological and energy industries” (European Commission, 2012). The forest-based sector (FBS) has potential to play a central role in the European bioeconomy (European Commission, 2012; Hetemäki, 2014) particularly in the Nordic countries (Förare, 2012; Luoma, Vanhanen, & Tommila, 2011; Norwegian Ministry of Food and Agriculture, 2009, 2011). Also IPCC emphasises the large potentials for the forest-based sector to mitigate climate change by sequestering carbon and providing renewable materials and energy (IPCC, 2014).
Important aspects of the bioeconomy include economic growth and employment, reduced fossil fuel dependency and improved economic and environmental sustainability of primary production and processing industries. In the Nordic forest sector, the bioeconomy may imply changes in technology, policies and business models contributing to economic developments, reductions in global emissions and improved resource efficiency (Bygg21, 2014, p. 21; Innovasjon Norge, 2015, p. 22). Generating insights on the forest-based sectors’ possible future transition paths is of high interest for providing better basis for policy makers and interested stakeholders, for management decisions among forest owners and for investment decisions by forest owners, forest industries, energy producers, and others (Hetemäki, 2014; Kleinschmit et al., 2014; Ollikainen, 2014).
The overall objective of the CAR is to provide a platform for open communication and co-ordination of relevant thematic elements and research projects related to the FBS’ contributions in the bioeconomy in the Nordic and Baltic countries. More specifically, the objectives of the CAR include establishing and strengthening interdisciplinary research and post-graduate education collaboration in the Nordic countries, initiating and applying for financial support for advanced joint research projects, and serving science-policy interaction and decision-making in forestry and the forest-based industries as well as with other stakeholders.
The CAR builds on major interdisciplinary and innovative research projects (FORBIO, BioNEXT and several other ongoing projects), which aim at exploring, analysing, and quantifying potentials and opportunities for the forest-based sector to contribute into the bioeconomy, with an emphasis on the Nordic countries. The main objectives of these projects are to explore the opportunities for the development and restructuring of the Nordic FBS by analysing the (i) solid wood industries, (ii) forest-based process industries, (iii) roundwood supply in an ecosystem perspective, (iv) international policy and market developments, and (v) synthesizing these findings through scenario analysis. Sharing experiences, data, methods and results from the complementary research initiatives leads to significant synergies, in that it would help in avoiding duplicate R&D work and allow more elaborate analysis on the same topics.