How will we live in the bioeconomy of the future?

How and where will we live, what will we eat in the future in an economy no longer based on fossil resources? Experts from industry and research discussed this with young people at the second BioKompass future dialog on 18 September in Senckenberg Natural History Museum in Frankfurt. The results were captured as BioKompass future visions that describe possible variants of daily life in a bioeconomy in 2040.

In order to find out what life in the bioeconomy of the future could look like, more than 50 participants explored different future scenarios in a future dialog in the Senckenberg Natural History Museum in Frankfurt. These scenarios were developed beforehand by specialists under the direction of Fraunhofer ISI. In the future dialog, the participants imagined typical daily situations in the life of a person in 2040 and used the storytelling method to delve into different futures of a bioeconomy.

The four future visions and stories of everyday life make it easier to understand how a bioeconomy can affect our daily lives and get people thinking about alternative future worlds. Dr. Simone Kimpeler, who coordinates the BioKompass project at Fraunhofer ISI, emphasizes: “It is important to get citizens and especially young people involved at an early stage in developing future visions of the bioeconomy and to demonstrate the possibilities they have to help shape their own future. We need a discourse in society about which bioeconomy we want, how we can ensure it is sustainable and how we want to change our consumption patterns to achieve this.”

For example, one future vision describes how Oda (23) supports a bioeconomy with a modest, frugal way of life that respects the planet’s limits. She buys organic milk and cheese in a “cow-sharing“ scheme, helps to bear the business risks of regional farmers by paying membership fees and solidarity prices, but also has to do without exotic fruit and vegetables. In a different vision of the bioeconomy in 2040, Beate (50) experiments at home with her bioreactor and produces some of her food herself. In spite of her enthusiasm for technology, her apartment is an eclectic mix of high-tech, wood and bio-based materials – the main thing is they can be recycled or are biodegradable and long-lived. The future dialog also described the fictional daily life of a chemical technician and that of an organic female farmer in 2040. The latter likes to drink dandelion coffee with her friend and uses a display to keep an eye on her farm at the same time. She does not need to weed her own crops, drones do that job for her.

The recently published future stories inspire people to think about alternative variants of a future bioeconomy and visualize their own. They make people aware of how differently the bioeconomy can be shaped and how much our own patterns of consumption and living influence this. Elna Schirrmeister from Fraunhofer ISI emphasizes: “None of our future visions describes an ideal bioeconomy; every scenario includes assumptions that are discussed critically. During the future dialog, it became clear that the individual evaluations of how desirable a vision is vary considerably.”

About the project:

In view of climate change, resource scarcity, environmental pollution and digitalization, we need to change our thinking in every area of society. The development towards a bio-based economy could contribute to this, but it is still unclear what concrete form this should take. On behalf of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the BioKompass project employs different methods to stimulate societal participation in this process of economic transformation. These include participatory scenario development, interactive exhibitions in the Senckenberg Natural History Museum and seminar courses for senior school classes.

Fraunhofer ISI is responsible for the project’s overall coordination and is in charge of the subproject “Future visions of the bioeconomy”. The Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung (SGN) further develops the results of the future dialogs over the course of the project for the museum sector in various media formats, exhibitions and teaching materials. In addition, an augmented reality app and web content are created together with experts from Fraunhofer IGD. An accompanying evaluation is conducted by the Institute for Social-Ecological Research ISOE.

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.

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