9 Mar 2017

Nordic bioeconomy: be courageous to innovate

By Hörður G. Kristinsson, chairman of the Nordic Bioeconomy Panel

In 2017, the Nordic Council of Ministers published a brochure presenting cases of bioeconomy activities in the region. The cases were collected by the Nordic Bioeconomy Panel. Click here to download

The challenges of today and those of the future open up a wealth of opportunities. They concern providing enough nutritious and safe food for the growing population, developing new and more environmentally friendly sources of energy and tackling global warming, with its major disruptive effects on land and the oceans. We are also seeing changes in our demographics that call for new solutions. By 2030, we will need 50% more food, 45% more energy and 30% more water.

To deal with these challenges, we need sustainable innovative solutions for society and the environment. An advanced bioeconomy may render a very likely answer to the question of what will ensure sustainable economic growth for the Nordics in the decades to come. There are tremendous opportunities in the bioeconomy in the Nordic countries. The new bioeconomy is being driven by great innovations, many of which are disrupting conventional industries in a positive sense. Investing in the bioeconomy is investing in our future.

So what is the bioeconomy all about? The bioeconomy is all-encompassing and comprises those parts of the economy that use renewable biological resources from land and sea in a responsible way, with the aim of benefitting business, society and nature alike. The economic impact of the bioeconomy is extensive. A recent study shows that the bioeconomy has created 18 million jobs and EUR 2 trillion in turnover within the EU. These numbers will continue to grow, as the whole world seems to be moving towards a sustainable bioeconomy. There is no other alternative if we are to address global challenges and meet the sustainable development goals set by the United Nations.

The bioeconomy deals with a wide range of different bio-based resources. The Nordic countries also vary quite a bit in their bio-based resources. Sweden and Finland maintain a particularly strong and advanced forestry sector. Denmark boasts a very strong agriculture sector. Iceland, Norway, the Faroe Islands and Greenland, on the other hand, have created a very strong marine sector.

The Nordic countries are in an excellent position to take a global lead in the field of sustainable production and utilisation of bioresources. This will enhance our competitiveness and sustainability. As a step in this direction, in 2015, the Nordic Ministers for Cooperation established the Nordic Bioeconomy Panel as a policy and strategy forum. Appointed for two years, the panel includes representatives of official agencies, research bodies, private companies and civil society from all the Nordic countries. The goal of the Nordic Bioeconomy Panel is to stimulate and coordinate Nordic cooperation on the bioeconomy policy area, as well as to expand international cooperation. Our aim is to develop a proposal to the Nordic ministers on a joint Nordic bioeconomy strategy that will contribute to a sustainable transformation towards the bioeconomy and stimulate innovation.

One of the first actions of the panel has been to collect excellent and inspirational examples to showcase the Nordic bioeconomy at its best. The cases were recently published as a catalogue, as a catalogue and can be found online here.

We hope these cases will help you gain a better understanding of the bioeconomy, and its importance and potential. In times of change, success depends to a great extent on being courageous enough to innovate, using new ways of production, finding innovative solutions and working across the sectors both within the Nordic countries and globally. There are excellent investment opportunities in the Nordic bioeconomy and its products and services have a great global market potential and can serve as a model for whoever is interested to follow. 

Read more about the catalogue on Norden.org

Hörður G. Kristinsson

Hörður G. Kristinsson

Chairman of the Nordic Bioeconomy Panel