Bioeconomy: A Green and White Aphorism for the Portuguese Regions?

  • João Leitão
  • 27 July 2020

Green Bioeconomy is based on green or agroforestry biotechnology, encompassing primary production, with a wide range of biotechnology applications in the agricultural, livestock and forest sectors.

Around the inspiring vision announced by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 2009 in the publication: ‘The Bioeconomy to 2030: Designing a Policy Agenda’; the Bioeconomy is considered a core lever for sustainable and endogenous growth.

This vision is built on three strategic pillars: (I) Knowledge in biotechnology for the purpose of biopharmaceutical production, new combinations of vaccines, new variations of plants and animals, and industrial enzymes; (II) Renewable biomass and household, industrial and agricultural waste; and (III) Efficient bioprocesses for sustainable production of paper, biofuels, plastics, industrial chemicals, and one day hopefully, transistors, nanochips and organs.

The Bioeconomy is rooted on a complex vertical chain, where upstream activities: research, development and innovation (RD&I), and production activities; and downstream activities: distribution and marketing activities; should be strategically mapped, anticipated and interconnected. This implies, however, a challenging integration between knowledge and applications in three main fields: (1) Primary production, including all living natural sources: forest; plant culture; animal resources; insects; fish and other marine resources; (2) Health, covering pharmaceutical, nutraceutical, diagnostic and medical instruments; and (3) Industry, adding chemicals, plastics, enzymes, mining, pulp and paper and environmental applications.

A substantial set of competitive advantage sources points to a truly Schumpeterian entrepreneurial multiplicity of sectors (not steady State diversification), based on logics of efficiency, strategic diversification and productivity, with higher levels of specialization, which can aggregate a diversified portfolio of sixteen productive sectors framed, in total or partial terms, in the challenging and demanding framework of the innovative Bioeconomy: The Green and the White one!

Green Bioeconomy is based on green or agroforestry biotechnology, encompassing primary production, with a wide range of biotechnology applications in the agricultural, livestock and forest sectors.

For its turn, the White Bioeconomy is linked to industrial processes and can cover biotechnological processes (as an example, enzymes and microorganisms to produce bio-based products in sectors as diverse as chemicals, food, detergents, pulp and paper, textiles and bioenergy), which contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, as well as to improving the performance and value of industrial products.

In conclusive terms, the Bioeconomy is much more than a Green and White Aphorism, since, in line with the arguments put forward above, the former proves to be an ambitious, strategic and integrated vision, which is lacking and can contribute for fostering the sustainability and productivity of the Portuguese Regions, but to be feasible, we need to (re)create the Regions!

  • João Leitão
  • Assistant Professor with aggregation at UBI and Director of UBIExecutive Business School