In the coming years the lignite mining region the Rheinische Revier will undergo significant transformative change. To mitigate the impacts of structural change, the objective is to turn the region into a model region for a sustainable bioeconomy. This process creates a unique opportunity for society as it will provide rare insights into the way such transformation processes work. In addition, valuable knowledge for the future will be gained.
The Rheinische Revier is the largest interconnected lignite mining area in Europe. At the same time, this region pursues the objective of becoming a model region for a sustainable bioeconomy in the coming years. A regional transformation process of this magnitude, however, is not only a question of technological and economic progress but also inheres complex social changes.
In the competence platform project Transform2Bio we set focus on understanding how such a social transformation process works - and what we can learn from it. Even though the Rheinische Revier as a model region is embedded in a particularly dynamic context, some of the underlying general conditions and processes are not limited to the region but can also provide valuable insights far beyond the Rheinische Revier. Comparable regional transformations are taking place across the world - from Lusatia (Germany) to New Zealand.
Our research thus addresses, for example, the question of how to balance the diverging interests of many societal groups. Perspectives, for instance, between companies, farmers and citizens' associations, can differ fundamentally. In order to help shape transformation processes jointly and successfully, inclusive processes and new ideas are required for reaching consensus across society.
This objective is also very closely related to the question of stakeholder involvement of different societal groups. However,the mere knowledge of different perspectives does not automatically lead to their balanced consideration. From experience, for example with the Energiewende in Germany, we know that some forms of participation in decision-making processes are promising – while others are not. In the worst case, a misguided (or lack of) involvement of the actors can lead to societal groups turning away from the transformation of their region or even attempting to block it. Thus, we research ways and means of collectively implementing a sustainable bioeconomy.
The agricultural sector provides a particularly interesting example as farmers, the regional supplier of biomass, constitute a key actor for the success of a sustainable bioeconomy. Farmers are regularly faced with complex decisions and often have to plan many years in advance, as the cultivation of certain crops can leave its mark on the soil for years to come. Added to this are changing demands on humans and nature due to the impacts of climate change - but also exciting opportunities that come with new technologies and digitalization. Further, demands for sustainable forms of cultivation and resilient supply chains are becoming ever more important for society as a whole, prompting reforms of the complex political framework. It is therefore vital to understand what factors are central to farmers and what considerations guide their decisions. Equally important is the question of how the produced biomass is subsequently used. Farmers are interested in knowing to what extent their produce is in demand by consumers and industry. At the same time, however, industry needs appropriate conditions to produce both innovative and sustainable products.
As discussed, a multitude of interests and interdependencies must be taken into account in order to make decisions in a commonly comprehensible and transparent way. In order to support decision makers in such complex decisions, we bundle the collective knowledge of the stakeholders and use a multi-criteria decision analysis as a methodical approach. This enables us to understand and take into account which decision criteria are of particular importance for different stakeholders and how these preferences influence the finding of common compromises.
The knowledge gained from this dynamic interplay is of enormous importance to ensure that we, as a society, continue to achieve our common goals in the future.
Thus, project results are meant to contribute to the success in current and future transformation processes – in the Rheinische Revier and beyond.
Prof. Dr. Sandra Venghaus
Institute for Energy and Climate Research
Department Systems Analysis and Technology Evaluation (IEK-STE)
01.09.2019 – 31.12.2022
Transform2Bio is part of the NRW-Strategieprojekt BioSC and thus funded by the Ministry of Culture and Science of the German State of North Rhine-Westphalia.
Prof. Dr. Jan Börner, ILR – Economics of Sustainable Land Use and Bioeconomy, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn
Prof. Joachim von Braun, ZEF - Economic and Technological Change, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn
PD Dr. Wolfgang Britz, ILR - Economic Modeling of Agricultural Systems Group, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn
Prof. Dr. Stefanie Bröring, ILR – Technology and Innovation Management in Agribusi-ness (TIM), Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn
Prof. Jürgen-Fr. Hake (em.), Dr. Wilhelm Kuckshinrichs, IEK-STE – Systems Analysis and Technology Evaluation, Forschungszentrum Jülich
Prof. Dr. Monika Hartmann, ILR – Chair of Agricultural and Food Market Research, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn
Prof. Dr. Thomas Heckelei, ILR – Chair of Economic and Agricultural Policy, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn
Prof. Dr. Silke Hüttel, ILR – Chair of Production Economics, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn
Prof. Dr. Ulrich Schurr, IBG-2 – Plant Sciences, Forschungszentrum Jülich
Prof. Dr. Grit Walther, OM – Chair of Operations Management, RWTH Aachen