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Structuring research in bioeconomy

In association with IFPen, INRA organised a seminar on bioeconomy in Paris on 8 and 9 October 2013 which was sponsored by the Ministries for Agriculture, Ecology and Industrial Renewal.  This field of research and technological innovation necessitates a comparison of the approaches adopted by different European countries, in order to encourage the development of partnerships between different research establishments.

Biomass facilities in Estrées-Mons © Gérard PAILLARD
By Nicole Ladet, translated by Vicky Hawken
Updated on 06/02/2015
Published on 10/24/2013

A radical economic transformation

Travel, accommodation, heating, clothing or cleaning all require energy, chemical products and equipment, a large proportion of which are currently based on petrochemicals.  Modern society faces the important challenge of enabling freedom from our dependence on oil by making use of renewable resources, and at the same time enabling sustainable economic growth, in the context of a virtuous spiral that favours food security and the environment.  This radical economic transformation forms an intrinsic part of bioeconomy.  It will involve a greater use of biomass, that scientific advances in modern biology will be able to transform into new products, and particularly biofuels and green chemicals.

An INRA priority at the horizon of 2020

Bioeconomy is a major objective of the European Union's 8th Framework Programme for Research, Horizon 2020, under the second societal challenge of Food Security, Sustainable Agriculture and Bioeconomy.  It is also included in the French strategic research agenda (2013) for research, transfer and innovation, in the context of several priorities.  INRA has chosen it as an important priority among its orientations for 2010-2020. This dynamic is amplified by award-winning projects under the Stimulus Initiative programme, in the Institutes of Excellence on both Carbon-free Energies and Biotechnologies and Bioresources.  François Houllier, the President of INRA, explained these objectives in his New Year message for 2013. Recalling INRA's strengths in this area, he concluded that "INRA is really quite well placed on this subject […]. We have research on the resources, we have skills in the technologies and biotechnologies, and we have the capacity for a systemic vision… [in particular regarding the complementarities between food and non-food uses]".

Research questions and potential partnerships

In this context, the seminar on 8 October attracted nearly a hundred participants from different research (CEA, CIRAD, CNRS, Ifremer), innovation (Ademe) and higher education (AgroParisTech, Montpellier SupAgro) establishments, and from industry (Téreos, Roquette, Limagrain, Prolea, Vivescia).
On 9 October, 65 experts split into three working groups to explore the research issues relative to:

(1) agricultural, marine and forest production systems,
(2) technologies for biomass transformation and biorefineries, and
(3) territorial sustainability and management.