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By 2050, twice as much food as today will be required to feed the world population. We will be able to clearly feel the consequences of climate change and reserves of fossil fuels will drastically decline. In view of these developments, it is obvious that the future of humankind will be substantially characterized by the extent to which we manage to obtain food, create production processes and maintain the energy supply in a sustainable, climate-friendly manner.

This is exactly what the bioeconomy aims to accomplish: to use our knowledge about biological processes to produce food in a manner that is not based on overexploitation to feed a growing population, to guarantee an energy supply without destroying the environment and to develop innovative materials that are not based on oil.

Bioeconomy takes the economic, ecological and social dimensions of sustainability into account. Jülich plays a pioneering role in the area of the bioeconomy. Together with RWTH Aachen University, the University of Bonn and Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf, Forschungszentrum Jülich has founded the Bioeconomy Science Centre (BioSC). With a staff of over 1000, BioSC serves as a centre of excellence focusing the scientific expertise of the partners in an interdisciplinary, integrative holistic approach and using this expertise in value-creation processes together with partners from industry.

The research priority areas range from sustainable plant bioproduction, taking the protection of soil and water into account, new methods for processing biomass and the use of microorganisms for the production of materials to the use of biomass to generate energy while keeping in mind the associated value chains and networks. In a further priority area, economic issues relevant for the introduction of the bioeconomy and the implications for society are investigated and evaluated.

In order to quickly translate the research results into solutions for business, cooperation with industry is essential. To this end, the BioSC partners make use of their relevant contacts. Today, numerous medium-sized and international companies have indicated their interest.

It is crucial to integrate the production of biomass, its processing and product development in meaningful value-creation processes and make optimal use of existing technology platforms, for instance, in the area of genetic analysis, the quantification and selection of plant properties (phenotyping), bioanalytics, soil and ground water characterization, field-based experimentation, process engineering of renewable raw materials and in supercomputing.

The members plan to develop a multi- and interdisciplinary, integrative graduate training programme on the bioeconomy in the near future. This programme will aim to provide engineers and economists with the background information they need in biology, for example, and allow biologists to develop an understanding of methods for processing biomass. In so doing, the BioSC will profit from the partners’ existing graduate schools that have a thematic interface with the bioeconomy.

The German Government is supporting the National Research Strategy BioEconomy 2030 of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) in the coming years with a total of €2.4 billion. In the recommendations of the national Research and Technology Council for the Bioeconomy (Bioeconomy Council), BioSC is named as a strong example of a facility addressing the topic of the bioeconomy in Germany. The topic is also highly significant for the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

The development of a bioeconomy is a global challenge that can only be managed through international cooperation. Therefore, BioSC plans to strategically expand its cooperation with academic and industrial partners in industrialized countries and emerging economies.