David Newman, BBIA Managing Director, attended EFIB 2016 in Glasgow and sends this report as the event comes to a close on 20 October.
The EFIB event was a well-organised and interesting overview of the bioeconomy landscape – in the UK, Europe and with contributions from the USA. Three days of workshops and seminars illustrated some of the new technological developments the sector is seeing rapidly adopted, with announcements regarding new investments, products and plant.
The strength of innovation in Scotland itself became evident with the government determined to back bioeconomy industries wanting to build infrastructure there. Scotland is poised to take the leading role within the UK in this sector, along with the Teesside region’s historic chemical industry hub.
Need for bioeconomy strategy in the UK
Whilst Scotland has a clear bioeconomy strategy and is implementing it, the UK as a whole lacks one still, and this delay has led to promising start-ups and researchers with intellectual property building their plants elsewhere.
Croda’s new $150m facility is being built in the USA and Akzonobel’s €180m facility in Rotterdam, because support, markets, political certainty and feedstocks in these locations offer a stronger case for investment.
But all is not lost. Mark Turner from BEIS this week outlined the development of thinking on the bioeconomy strategy and informed us that the government would probably announce in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement (in November) the publication of Green and White papers, with policy consultation, on the bioeconomy. He strongly recommends we all request to take part and we can do this now by writing to BEIS asking to be included in the consultation. Please do so.
Circular Economy Package progress
Elsewhere, presentations from European Commission officials underlined how the debate is moving forward on the Circular Economy Package. The discussion is very dynamic, moving from the Commission to the Parliament and the European Council.
We can expect a final version of the Waste Framework Directive not before the end of 2017. Policy discussions are intense over questions that affect our sector, notably the segregated collection of biowaste, and the definition of which materials can be considered as compatible with biowaste collections (such as bioplastics).
European, and national, funding still plentiful
One message has come across strongly: there is a lot of government and EU funding available for bioeconomy projects, whether within Horizon 2020, the BBI JU or national funds through vouchers given by NNFCC, LBNet or others.
The European Commission officials also confirmed that for the next funding round in 2017, the UK has the same opportunity to obtain funding as it always has had. Until the Brexit negotiations are completed, nothing will change on this.
Perhaps this is the moment when the British government will see the opportunities in bioeconomy investments and stimulate these through the sort of policies adopted elsewhere. Strong support among the audience was given to policies on green public procurement, to forceful interventions on biowaste collections policy, to re-writing end-of-waste regulations to allow new technologies to enter the market, and to cross-sectorial thinking and planning.
BBIA will continue to give its support to policymakers to make the case for bioeconomy investments in the UK, and I hope we can count upon your support and contribution in doing so.
Managing Director, BBIA