Europe’s bio-based industries continue to expand, generating a total turnover of €780 billion in 2018, up €30 billion compared to 2017, according to a newly published report commissioned by the Bio-based Industries Consortium (BIC).
The earliest data on the European bio-economy were collected in 2008 by Germany’s nova-Institute for Ecology and Innovation, the compiler of this report. By comparison, these latest figure show an increase of 20% over the decade 2008-2018.
Analysis of the 2018 Eurostat data showed a turnover for the total bioeconomy, which includes, next to bio-based industries, food and beverages and the primary sectors of agriculture and forestry, amounted to just over €2.4 trillion in the EU-27 and the United Kingdom in 2018, from less than €2 trillion in 2008. Apart from the recession in 2009, growth remained steady throughout the years between 2008 and 2018, with the food sector as the largest contributor to this result.
Broken down according to sector, the report reveals that the bio-based chemical industry, including plastics, achieved a turnover of around €54 billion - a 7.5% increase since 2008.
The food and beverage sector accounted for about half of the turnover; the bio-based industries overall - chemicals and plastics, pharmaceuticals, paper and paper products, forest-based industries, textiles, biofuels and bioenergy - accounted for roughly 30%, while the agriculture and forestry sectors contributed close to 20%.
Employment in the European bioeconomy did not keep pace with the rising turnover figures, but declined slightly from 18.5 million people in 2017 to a total of 18.4 million people in 2018, largely due to efficiency increases in production. Primary biomass production, mainly agriculture, accounts for over half of the jobs (54%) in the bioeconomy, but contributes only 20% to the overall turnover.
The data also demonstrate clear differences between groups of Member States. The Central and Eastern European countries of Poland, Romania and Bulgaria tend to be more highly represented in the lower value-added sectors of the bio-based economy. These sectors also produce many jobs. This indicates a strong agricultural sector that tends to be labour-intensive compared to the high value-added sectors. In comparison, Western and Northern European countries generate much higher turnover relative to employment, indicating a larger share of refining and value-added industries. The countries with the highest turnover-to-employment ratios are Finland, Belgium and Sweden.
Looking ahead, it will be interesting to see what the impact of the European Green Deal introduced in 2019 will be on the European bioeconomy. In general, the policy framework in which the bioeconomy operates is subject to continual revisions, changes and even additional measures.
In July of this year, for example, the European Commission adopted a package of proposals to make the EU's climate, energy, land use, transport and taxation policies fit for reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels, introducing significant changes within its regulatory framework. How these changes will affect the bioeconomy and whether the slow but steady growth of the bioeconomy in the EU will continue or even be accelerated will be tracked and published in future reports.
The first report in this series on the growth of the European bioeconomy was commissioned by the Bio-based Industries Consortium (BIC) in 2017. The Bio-based Industries Consortium (BIC) is the private partner in the 3.7 EUR billion public-private partnership with the EU - the Bio-based Industries Joint Undertaking (BBI JU). It comprises over includes 240 industry members covering the entire value chain, as well as over 200 associate members, including research organisations, academia and trade associations.
The present report may be downloaded free of charge at: http://www.renewable-carbon.eu/publications/product/european-bioeconomy-in-figures-2008-2018-pdf/