How Finland responds to the Bioeconomy challenges
As the European country historically most dependent on its forests for wealth creation, Finland’s approach to the bioeconomy is a matter of great national importance. The government has set ambitious targets, and devotes significant resources to promoting new breakthroughs. As a way of introducing the Finnish way to our readers, we talked with one of the key people charged with advancing the bioeconomy agenda, Jussi Manninen, Program Director, Ministry of Employment and the Economy.
1. Finland is held by many observers to be a frontrunner in the European Bioeconomy. Is that based on fact or perception?
That is a fact. The bioeconomy is a significant part of our economy, especially forest-based bioeconomy, which is natural when looking at our natural resources. This traditional sector has undergone rapid changes in the last ten years to move from the traditional forest industries into an industry that produces biomaterials, biofuels and bioenergy in ever increasing share.
We also have progressive policies to drive innovation and deployment of bioeconomy solutions into the industries and the society. Our national bioeconomy strategy and the current government’s action plan have set ambitious targets for increase of output and employment in the bioeconomy.
2. In EU's quest for a successful Bioeconomy programme, can the northern nations with large forest reserves (such as Finland) benefit from EU policy, or will they effectively been held back because of the need to have pan-European policies in place?
There is no single answer to this question. We have been able to benefit from the innovation policy instruments, like the Bio-Based Industries Initiative, for example. 2020 targets and the renewable energy directive have been beneficial for development and deployment of advanced biofuels. Biomass sustainability criteria discussion is somewhat confusing for us, not because of the need but because of the proposed means. We, and the other forested countries of Europe rely on our forestry management practices to ensure sustainability, and the proposals for product dependent sustainability criteria seem unnecessary since different parts of a tree are used for a multitude of products ranging from chemicals to lumber, from pulp to fuels and energy. Policies are an important driver of the bioeconomy and uncertainties in the policy direction holds back investments.
Read more: NC Partnering newsletter 05/2016