The BioRural project is working to develop a transitional framework towards a sustainable, regenerative, inclusive and circular Bioeconomy across all Europe and to support innovators to introduce small-scale bio-based solutions in rural areas. With a total budget of around €3 million funded by the European Union, BioRural is set to bridge the gap between available bio-based innovations and European citizens’ everyday life. The project promotes the exchange of knowledge and investigates the business opportunities for rural development. In total 19 partners from 14 different countries- have been brought together and are ready to join their efforts for the next 3 years. The kick-off meeting, held in early September in Athens, had the project off to a great start and this was only the beginning!
Rural Europe is in urgent need of a paradigm shift.
While digitalization and smart devices connect people from all over the globe, remote areas are still not capable of exploiting these new technologies and thus remain isolated.
With more and more people moving to urban centers in recent decades, the current demographic distribution is quite unequal; rural areas are inhabited by 30% of the EU population, despite accounting for over 80% of the EU territory.
In addition, the EU economy is largely dependent on linear production systems and non-renewable resources and materials. Despite numerous attempts to reduce this reliance; for instance, in 2018 alone, the EU states produced 61.8 million tons of plastic.
The linear economy impact combined with extended urbanization, has brought new challenges for people in rural areas including: a higher risk of poverty, limited access to basic services and infrastructure and a lower level of education, as compared to other areas in the EU, as well as an average GDP per capita in rural regions reaching only 75% of the EU average.
BioRural aims to address and resolve these economic, demographic and climate-related challenges “by developing an effective transition framework, mainstreaming inclusive solutions that will benefit all European rural areas” suggests the team of experts behind the BioRural consortium.
Making a positive impact
In its bold commitment to actually bring a shift towards a circular Bioeconomy, this newly launched project is supporting innovators to introduce inclusive bio-based solutions in rural Europe, in order to raise awareness and increase value in these areas. Evaluating the current performance of the European rural Bioeconomy and comprehending the barriers affecting the adoption of innovation, is only the starting point! BioRural is here to ensure and enhance the cooperation between several key players in the Bioeconomy chain; from farmers, fishermen, foresters, rural citizens, innovators, to wider groups such as the private sector, policy makers, local governments, NGOs, schools, universities and training centers. However, it is time to figure out how this will be put into practice; through organizing training workshops and other impactful activities, BioRural will diffuse the available knowledge resources to all related stakeholders. Each of them will be provided with tailored and independent support, ranging from consulting to mentoring. This will not only be an eye-opener for people engaging in rural activities, such as farmers, but will also result in sustainable business model pathways, capable of accelerating the development of marketable products and services and improving the market penetration of bio-based solutions in Europe.
Eight projects that have successfully been transformed from ideas into products so far, might convince you even more. Aiming to provide optimal conditions close to fish’ natural diet, Pustelnia in Poland introduced the Fish Welfare Certificate for a sustainable local aquaculture (“Fish Welfare”), while “Staramaki” in Greece, produces biobased straws from the by-product of local wheat cultivation while also producing biofertiliser from spent coffee grounds from local cafes and residues from straw production , giving an alternative solution to the single-use of plastic straws, while also tackling high unemployment in the rural area of Kilkis. These are only a few of the amazing success stories identified and included in the project and with many more to come!
By the end of this project, BioRural aims to fulfil its motto and connect the dots to unlock the potential of European rural areas towards circular Bioeconomy, establishing an EU network, able to endure in time. Coordinated by a team of experts from the Centre for Research & Technology Hellas (CERTH), BioRural will be the meeting point for all related stakeholders, from fishermen to local governments, to achieve this goal.
According to the project coordinator, Dr. Thanos Balafoutis: “Our mission is to help people think local and act global, by using bio-based solutions that will have a positive and durable impact on the planet. Our focus, besides environmental protection, is -far and foremost- on people; we are looking forward to breathing a new life into remote rural areas, helping people come together towards this cause and taking you with us along this journey!”