Workshop 3

ERIFORE’s final workshop was organised as a high-level lunch debate on “Future research infrastructure for European leadership in circular forest bioeconomy” in connection with the 9th European Innovation Summit (EIS) in Brussels. The event was kindly hosted by MEP Sirpa Pietikäinen in the Members’ Salon of the European Parliament on 29th November 2017.

The aim of the event was to introduce ERIFORE project and its targets to European policymakers and interested stakeholders. The event was fully booked with 60 attendees from 15 countries across Europe and Canada. Among the lunch debate participants were high-level representatives from the European Parliament and the European Commission, representatives from national and regional governmental sectors, from trade associations and public-private partnership organisations, from industry and universities.

Lunch debate starting words by Sune Wännström and Sirpa Pietikäinen

Sune Wännström, Senior advisor from RISE Research Institutes of Sweden and member of the ERIFORE consortium, kicked off the lunch debate with the ERIFORE whiteboard video and also moderated the discussion throughout the whole event. His starting words emphasized the fact that one of the global challenges is to move from the fossil-based economy to sustainable bioeconomy. The forest bioeconomy has high potential in energy products, chemicals and new materials. ERIFORE’s vision is to be a key contributor for European forest-based sector.

The floor was was first given to the hosting MEP Sirpa Pietikäinen, who highlighted in her introductory speech the following key messages:

  • All oil-based resources should be transformed to sustainable biobased resources.
  • All biobased resources are not by definition sustainable. Their sustainability depends on how they are produced. This realisation requires criteria based on life-cycle analysis, including indirect land use, and the implementation of the principle of cascading use of resources.
  • Biobased resources are not infinite, especially because there is growing pressure on their use, and serious prioritisation, cascading principle, of their use is needed. There is room for bioenergy but only from waste and residue that cannot be used otherwise.

Dirk Carrez and Mika Härkönen presenting their views on research infrastructure needs in the field of forest bioeconomy

Next, Dirk Carrez, Executive Director of the Bio-based Industries Consortium (BIC), gave examples of projects running under the umbrella of the Bio Based Industries Joint Undertaking (BBI JU), which is a public private partnership between the European Union and the Biobased Industries Consortium. There is strong need to demonstrate the feasibility of conversion of lignocellulosic feedstocks like wood into chemical building blocks and high added value products. Cross-sectorial collaboration, knowledge sharing and new thinking are essential to face the challenges. Furthermore, in order to get the maximum benefit of the smart specialisations strategies that have been launched across Europe in the last five years, a permanent process of engagement and learning need to be ensured. Research and innovation are fundamental for European competitiveness.

After a lunch break, Mika Härkönen, ERIFORE Coordinator from VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, summarized the key findings of the project in his presentation on “ERIFORE-European Research Infrastructure for Circular Forest Bioeconomy” One of the main tasks of this two-year project was to define what kind of development needs there are for research infrastructure (RI) networks at European level. Based on the survey results of a questionnaire addressed to over one-hundred scientific and industrial RI owners, it can be concluded that the needs related to co-operation and coordination fall into the following categories:

  • increased networking between academia, research organisations and industry
  • enhanced awareness and easier use of the open access research and innovation infrastructures
  • funding tools enabling long-term perspective both for human capital and for large investments, including pilot plants

ERIFORE consortium will take the needs into account. Work continues after the ERIFORE project with the target to file an application for the next update of the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) roadmap. The mission is to establish an open access distributed research and innovation infrastructure for circular forest bioeconomy. The focus will be on science and innovation bridge needed to develop and commercialise novel biorefinery process concepts for production of value added chemicals and materials from forest-based raw materials. Well structured ESFRI project can be a good tool to implement European research and innovation strategies and agendas.

Humberto Delgado Rosa and Miapetra Kumpula-Natri on the stand for final discussion

The presentations were reflected by Humberto Delgado Rosa, Director Natural Capital and member of the EC/DG ENV, and  by MEP Miapetra Kumpula-Natri. Mr Rosa pointed out that there are two angles to be investigated: the technology side and the supply side. He underlined the importance of proper evaluation of the land use. Ecosystem services need to be taken into decision making while implementing the transformation to sustainable bioeconomy.

Mrs Kumpula-Natri considered ERIFORE’s efforts as a positive signal of support for future bioeconomy. She emphasized the importance of close communication with policymakers in order to ensure long-term coherence of the research and planned investments with European bioeconomy strategies.

ERIFORE consortium wishes to thank all the speakers and lunch debate participants for the versatile discussion! We hope you follow our activities also in the coming years.

If you have any further questions, please contact ERIFORE coordinator Mika Härkönen by e-mail: mika.harkonen@vtt.fi

ERIFORE flyer presenting the next steps can be downloaded here.


This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 654371