What does the bioeconomy of the future look like?


The new research project “BioKompass“, which is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Research and Technology, explores the transformation of the economy into a bioeconomy and what this could look like. To address this question, Fraunhofer ISI is conducting the first of three future dialogs on 23 January 2018 in Frankfurt, at which experts from industry, society and research will develop visions of the future bioeconomy. Over the course of the project, educational programs, participatory meetings, and various communication formats will be used to engage different target groups. This approach will enable participants from across society to contribute their perspectives on the bioeconomy to the discussion, and facilitate the co-design of the societal and economic transformation processes.

The existing economic system is increasingly moving away from the use of fossil-based raw materials and towards an economy based on natural material cycles. This has impacts on many areas of life, society, and the economy. An increasing demand for bio-based products creates new challenges for the German economy, and raises questions about food security, environmental protection, climate change, and resource scarcity. Taken collectively, the impacts of the bioeconomic transformation involve topics such as more sustainable consumption or post-growth strategies.

But what does such a bioeconomy and the related transformation processes in industry and society look like? Coordinated by the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI, the new research project “BioKompass” addresses this question. The project team includes the Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology ICT and the Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics Research IGD as well as the Senckenberg Nature Research Society (SGN) and the ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research.

One of the project's first objectives is to explore the diverse ideas people have about the future bioeconomy. To do so, experts from Fraunhofer ISI will hold the first “BioKompass” future dialog on 23 January 2018 at the Senckenberg Natural History Museum in Frankfurt. During this workshop, citizens will develop and discuss future scenarios of the bioeconomy together with experts from research, industry and society. Using participatory approaches of futures research, the workshops will produce alternative images of the future for a Bioeconomy based society, and these images will play an important role during the course of the project, and will promote wider public awareness of the topic.

In two other project modules supervised and realized by the Senckenberg Nature Research Society (SGN), these future images of the bioeconomy will further developed as the basis for a participative educational program utilizing innovative communication formats to engage the museum’s different target groups. Through these modules, the Senckenberg Museum in Frankfurt provides an atmosphere intended to stimulate young people to discuss, evaluate, and further develop the future images of the bioeconomy in interactive ways. Its exhibits can be researched and explored by all the museum’s visitors using their smartphone cameras and an augmented reality app developed by Fraunhofer IGD. This highly interactive and individualized experience opens the bioeconomy topic to a wider audience, and encourages inclusive participation in the discussion. Fraunhofer ICT will coordinate the development of additional learning modules and future visions of the bioeconomy with the participation of schoolchildren and their teachers as part of a seminar project and at a talent school.

At the same time, the project features an accompanying evaluation for quality assurance conducted by the ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research. Using specially developed survey instruments, the formats’ effects will be empirically recorded, evaluated, and further developed.

The overriding aim of the project is to create a deeper, shared understanding of a future, bio-based economy among all the participants and to make specific bioeconomic applications more tangible. In particular, the aim is to actively shape the process of societal transformation to a bioeconomy.

The Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI analyzes the origins and impacts of innovations. We research the short- and long-term developments of innovation processes and the impacts of new technologies and services on society. On this basis, we are able to provide our clients from industry, politics and science with recommendations for action and perspectives for key decisions. Our expertise is founded on our scientific competence as well as an interdisciplinary and systemic research approach.