Bioeconomy is the socio-economic system encompassing and interconnecting any economic activity that employs renewable bio-resources of soil and sea – such as agricultural crops, forests, animals and terrestrial and marine microorganisms – to produce food, materials and energy.
Bio-economy, therefore is composed of the most diverse branches of primary production – agriculture, forestry, fisheries and aquaculture – and the industrial fields that use or transform bio-resources from these branches, (such as the food industry, pulp and paper industry), as well as part of the chemical and energy industries, and the biotech industry.
These factors shape the very core of sustainable development, a virtuous path that leads the most solid communities towards a prosperous and environmentally friendly economy, in which dependence on fossil fuels and non-renewable resources is reduced.
This limits the loss of biodiversity and major land use transformations, regenerating the environment, creating new economic growth and employment from local specificity and traditions, particularly in rural, coastal and industrial areas (including abandoned areas), consistent with the principles contained in the Junker Agenda for Employment, Growth, Equity and Democratic Change.
Global population growth, climate change and reduced ecosystem resilience require an increased use of renewable biological resources, first and foremost for a more sustainable primary production and more efficient processing systems for the production of food, fibre and other bio-based products, with reduced utilisation of inputs, less waste production and greenhouse gas emissions, with consequent benefits for human health and the environment.
The valorisation of organic waste from agriculture, forests, cities and industry (primarily food) completes the action, ensuring that the bio-economy plays a key role in the circular economy.
The Italian bioeconomy includes all the main sectors of primary production, agriculture, forestry, fishing and aquaculture, those of the transformation of biological resources, such as the paper industry, wood processing, bio-refineries, biotechnology industries and some industries connected to the sea exploitation.
At present, it accounts for around €250 billion per year of turnover and 1.7 million people employed.
Emerging and converging technologies act as accelerators and amplifiers, with respect to the plethora of opportunities offered by the bioeconomy for sustainable development, for example here are the bioeconomic applications of two segments of the converging technologies, engines of the fourth industrial revolution: synthetic biology and digitalization.
BIOECONOMY AND SYNTHETIC BIOLOGY
SYNTHETIC BIOLOGY (or SYNBIO) is a new field of knowledge, born from the convergence between Biotechnology (BIO), Nanotechnology (NANO) and Infotechnology (Information and Communication Technologies-INFO).
To date there is no official definition of the discipline, however in the year 2014, the European Commission labeled Synthetic Biology as “the application of science, technology and engineering, to facilitate and accelerate the design, production and modification of genetic materials in living organisms”.
The innovative part is to be found in the approach, in which completely new biological systems and microorganisms can be designed and created at the DNA level.
This marks the distinguishing trait with biotechnology, where already existing processes and natural organisms are adapted, while with synthetic biology only “non-natural” molecules are used, for building biological mechanisms, phenomena and systems from the ground up.
In this way, scientists do not operate with genetic information already present in nature, but they artificially synthesize them.
The technological platform offered by Synbio is applied in almost any industrial sector, chemical and energy, food, environmental, medical, IT, transport, agriculture and industrial processes … practically every economic sector will gain from it.
Syntethic Biology = Key factor for sustainable development in industrial production and the replacement of fossil fuels.
More efficient and cost-effective production systems, more sustainable and balanced with respect to the ecosystem.
Synbio is therefore revolutionizing the Biotech segment, transforming its traditional R&D cycles, improving Reliability-Speed-Cost through:
– In silico modelling: computational techniques (reduction of Trial&Error)
– Public archives of standardised genetic components
– Automation and scale efficiency
The extreme potential applications of Synthetic biology technologies have allowed them to expand far beyond the traditional industrial sectors linked to biotech.
New products, never before conceived, are emerging in less saturated and less restrictive markets: cosmetics, clothing, nutrition, materials, training and much more.
Synbio applications are conquering new markets and defining the Bioeconomy, integrating it with economic sectors traditionally not linked to the biotech sector.
Synbio is a crucial element for the expansion of the Bioeconomy, with an estimated value – in Europe – of about € 2 trillion.
BIOECONOMY AND DIGITALIZATION (INDUSTRY 4.0)
The digitalization of the economy is a by-product of the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution.
This process should not be restricted to robotics and automation of production processes, but should be extended to the entire economic cycle: it should therefore entail the digitalization of materials extraction and procurement, including process planning, logistics, distribution of semi-finished and finished products, including the reuse, repair and recycling of products and materials.
It is equally significant to connect these processes with human resources, improving staff skills and boosting the labour market.
Thanks to the massive use of artificial intelligence and robotics, the entire process of digitalization of the economy leads to an important improvement in production efficiency, reducing resource consumption and (frequently) enabling the entire dematerialization of physical processes through digital, carbon-free processes.
Digital accelerators for a circular and sustainable bioeconomy:
– Smart Design & Smart manufacturing (LCA-automation-robotics)
– Monitoring systems (IoT – M2M – Sensors – Drones – Precision agriculture – Smart Breeding – etc.)
– Digital marketplace for bio-based materials
– Decentralized production (3d printing –modular manufacturing)
– Augmented reality for staff training
BIG DATA: THE DATA-DRIVEN BIOECONOMY PROJECT
The main objective of the DataBio project (funded under Horizon20) is to demonstrate the advantages of Big Data technologies in the production of raw materials: from agriculture, forestry and fishing / aquaculture, to the bio-economic industry to produce food, energy and biomaterials in a responsible and sustainable way.
DataBio proposes to implement a next-generation Big Data platform that draws on existing infrastructure and solutions from individual partners – the Big DataBio platform.
The task of the project aims at an ongoing cooperation of experts from end-users and service providers, bio-economic and technological research institutes, and other partners.
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