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Budget proposal 2013:

Towards a bio-based society

Enough food for everyone, adaptation to climate change, and sustainable closed-loop systems are some of the benefits of the bioeconomy. The Research Council of Norway is proposing a substantial budget increase for boosting bioeconomy-related industrial development.

Arvid HallénPhoto: Eva Brænd Arvid Hallén (Photo: Eva Brænd) “The bioeconomy, also known as the bio-based society, could be the solution to a number of major challenges facing the world,” says Arvid Hallén, Director General of the Research Council. As examples he cites a sufficient global food supply, adaptation to climate change, and the prevention of lifestyle diseases.

More sustainable

“Norway has abundant renewable natural resources, particularly in the ocean. Better utilisation of these resources should be one of our main contributions to a more sustainable global society. A fundamental principle of the bioeconomy is to utilise all biological resources – at every possible stage.”

New, more environment-friendly products and business activities could be developed by making use of currently unexploited biomass, adds Mr Hallén, such as producing plastic packaging based on plants rather than petroleum.

“The Norwegian petroleum industry will remain an economic mainstay for many years to come. At the same time,” he emphasises, “we must develop new industries that are more environment-friendly and sustainable. This is the reason the Research Council’s budget input for 2013 proposes an increase of NOK 112 million for research-based industrial development related to the bioeconomy.”

Closed-loop approach

Full utilisation of resources and residual raw materials at every stage of the biological cycle will yield major socio-economic benefits. The objective is for value chains to be complete, sustainable cycles.


The diagram below shows how such a closed-loop model incorporates residues or waste from one stage of a cycle into raw materials for another stage within the same cycle – or for use in a completely different cycle.
Mr Hallén believes Norway is in a good position to improve its biomass utilisation.

“Forests, for instance, are a substantial resource for raw materials – and there is great potential for increasing value creation in entirely new areas. For example, the technology already exists for producing fish feed from logs.”

  Forests are a substantial resource for raw materials. Forests are a substantial resource for raw materials.

“In the long term,” asserts Mr Hallén, “better exploitation of the biodiversity in Norwegian waters could lead to tremendous new opportunities. Advances in modern technologies such as biotechnology will give rise to new environment-friendly products and processes based on these biological resources.”

Clean oceans are essential

To maintain its position as the world’s leading exporter of salmon and contribute to the global food supply, Norway depends on its waters being clean. Since there is little likelihood of increasing the volume of wild fish catches, Norway needs to prioritise the ongoing development of an environment-friendly, sustainable aquaculture industry.

Photo: Havforskningsinstituttet (Photo: Havforskningsinstituttet)

This will be facilitated by research on genetics and selective breeding, fish health, equipment technology and distribution. Biotechnological research activities must also be launched to address the global need for quality animal feed.

Biotechnology is the key

At the very core of the bioeconomy is biotechnology, which will serve as the source of solutions for sustainable food production, industrial products and energy.

Biotechnology “Biotechnology, together with fields such as nanotechnology and ICT, will be critical in meeting society’s greatest challenges,” continues Mr Hallén. “The Research Council will take active steps to combine efforts from relevant fields constructively and to encourage effective collaboration between industry, the universities and university colleges, and the independent research institutes.

Best for the global community

According to the Research Council’s budget proposal, the importance of know-how relating to bioproduction and bioprocessing extends far beyond national borders. International cooperation is fruitful for all countries involved, and is absolutely vital for small nations such as Norway.

Norway already participates actively in several joint European programmes focused on safe and clean oceans, food safety and adaptation to climate change in the agricultural sector, and global challenges related to clean water. Norwegian activities will continue in the coming EU framework programme Horizon 2020 as well as other initiatives.

Facts about the bioeconomy

The EU defines the bioeconomy as the sustainable production and conversion of biomass into a host of food, health and fibre products, industrial products and processes, and energy. Renewable biomass includes all biological resources (marine, agricultural, forest-based and animal-based), whether products in themselves or raw materials for various applications.

The vision of the bioeconomy entails a sustainable closed-loop systems approach and full utilisation of raw materials and residual raw materials.


Budget proposal 2013

In addition to the bioeconomy, the Research Council designated environmental technology, improved infrastructure, and the new priority area “Healthy and active for many years” as main target areas in its 2013 budget proposal.

Written by:
Andreas B. Johansen/Else Lie. Translation: Darren McKellep/Carol B. Eckmann
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