The end of the era of lignite production requires innovative concepts in the Rhenish lignite mining area in order to preserve economic power and quality of life in the region and to align towards sustainability. Here, the bioeconomy can make important contributions. Recent months have therefore seen the launch of explorations of regional bioeconomy potentials.
The end of the lignite production has had a profound impact on regional development and the self-image of the people in the Rhenish district. Nevertheless, there are also great opportunities and potentials for a new, future-oriented regional identity.
The exceptionally good natural environment in the region, together with highly productive agriculture, designated bioeconomy research (e.g. BioSC, the PhenoRob cluster of excellence and CEPLAS) and an outstanding landscape for innovations in sustainable bioeconomy offers favorable conditions for the development of an exemplary bioeconomy model region (“bioeconomy district”).
The region is characterized by sustainable value creation models, future-proof and diverse working places, a livable environment and a close connection with the cities along the Rhine and in the Euregio. The population, as well as the chemical sector and food industry are regional markets for agricultural products (food and feed, biogenic goods). In addition, considerable quantities of biogenic waste and residue are generated in the cities; these streams can be diverted for use as raw materials in production processes or as fertilizer (a recycling economy).
It is now important to identify all relevant stakeholders from the various social sectors (economy, science, politics, municipalities, civil societies etc.) and along the value chain and network them in a targeted manner. This type of multi-player network should be the starting point for the development of pilot and demonstration projects or institutions leading to new business models and value added concepts (S2B) and can serve as the basis for a regional bioeconomy profile.
In recent months, the Jülich Research Center has positioned the bioeconomy as a potential field for structural change through a number of measures (e.g. the Sustainable Bioeconomy Future Forum and the Future Model Circular Bioeconomy Citizen Meeting); new cooperations have also been initiated, including successful participation in the funding program “Unternehmen Revier“ from which the “BioREVIER” Project stems and which is coordinated by the “Zukunftsagentur Rheinisches Revier”. Its aim is an area-wide compilation of all relevant bioeconomy actors in the district as well as networking, development of projects, opening of a dialog with citizens and the development of a mission statement.
Over the coming months, the regional perspective will continue to play a role in BioSC activities as well. The BioSC plays a key role in the generation of innovative bioeconomy concepts; the “Bioökonomie-Revier“ can offer conditions in the sense of a real-world laboratory to implement practical tests for these concepts. The goal now is to pool all resources in the region for the bioeconomy and thus help achieve structural change in the region.
Prof Dr. Ulrich Schurr and Dr. Christian Klar
More information: www.biorevier.de