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Biotechnical Faculty and partners free up potential European rural areas for transition to circular bioeconomy

Publish Date: 14.04.2023

Category: Interdisciplinary research

Sustainable development goals: 7 Affordable and clean energy, 8 Decent work and economic growth, 12 Responsible consumption and production (Indicators)

Based at the Biotechnical Faculty of the University of Ljubljana, a new Horizon Europe coordination and support project is underway to develop a working framework for introducing circular small-scale bio-based solutions in rural areas. Assoc. Prof. Dr Luka Juvančič, head of the project at the Biotechnical Faculty in the Chair for Agrarian Economics, Policy Law of the Animal Science Department, explains: “The aim of the BioRural project is to address economic, demographic and climate challenges for the most remote rural communities, through the presentation of circular technological and organisational solutions in various fields of bioeconomy (agricultural and food systems, the forest-wood chain, water systems, bioenergy, biomaterials).” He pointed out that European rural areas should not just succumb to the role of a source of raw materials for the bioeconomy, but should strengthen local value chains that will contribute to increased income and new rural employment. Such an approach, with the local closing of material and energy gaps, also makes sense from the aspect of environmental sustainability and energy sovereignty. The transition to a circular bioeconomy effectively addresses the current challenges for rural people, such as the risk of poverty, limited access to basic services and infrastructure and a lower level of education compared to other areas in the EU, plus a lower financial status. The project involves the cooperation of 19 partners from 14 different countries, with the Slovenian contingent made up of Biotechnical Faculty researchers – in addition to Prof. Dr Luka Juvančič there is Prof. Dr Primož Oven, from the Chair of the Chemistry of Wood and Other Lignocellulosic Materials in the Wood Science and Technology Department, Asst. Prof. Dr Gasan Ilja Osojnik Črnivec, from the Chair of Biochemistry and Food Chemistry, Department of Food Science, and Asst. Prof. Dr Sabina Berne from the Chair of Genetics, Biotechnology, Statistics and Plant Breeding in the Agronomy Department – and additionally as an example of good practices the company Algen d.o.o, which is developing technological solutions for treating wastewater, recycling food and obtaining raw materials for products with high value added, such as biostimulants, biopesticides and animal feed.

The economy of the EU is still largely dependent on traditional linear production systems and non-renewable resources and materials. Despite numerous attempts to reduce this dependence, EU countries in 2018 alone, for instance, produced 61.8 million tons of plastic. This is one more motivation to make the transition to new, green technologies based on raw materials of biological origin (farm products, wood, aquatic organisms). Prof Juvančič noted: “The useful value and potential of adding to the value of biological-origin raw materials goes beyond the traditional value chains such as the production of food and processing of wood. Modern technological processes (various forms of biorefining) and better organisation of business processes (cascade use of raw materials) enable the manufacture of products and materials that until recently were based exclusively on fossil fuel raw materials.” At the same time this serves to close material and energy gaps and expand income and employment opportunities – first and foremost in rural areas which through production in primary sectors (farming, forestry) ensure a raw material base for manufacturing. At the same time, however, due to demographic, economic and infrastructure challenges, they are able to exploit the potentials for adding value offered by new technologies.

Through the organisation of workshops, practical training and networking, the BioRural project will spread knowledge resources to a wide circle of rural stakeholders. Within the project framework, each of them will be provided with adapted and independent support, ranging from consultation to mentoring. The Biotechnical Faculty researchers in the project are heading up the third work package, Exchange of knowledge and strengthening capacities for the development of the bioeconomy in rural areas. The specific tasks within the package are (1) Online exchange of knowledge about the bioeconomy, (2) Creating interactive innovations with multiple actors on the national level, (3) Promoting cross-border cooperation with two-day regional workshops or start-up camps and (4) Guidelines for future research and policies in the area of the bioeconomy. Prof. Juvančič explains: “In addition to expanding horizons regarding the possibilities that go beyond ‘ordinary’ sectors tied to farming, forestry and their directly related manufacturing activities, this will also lead to the development and strengthening of sustainable business models that will be able to accelerate the development of market products and services and improve the breakthrough of bio-based solutions on the European market.”

biorural tekst 1

The BioRural project is being coordinated by a group of experts from the Greek Centre for Research and Technology (CERTH). Dr Thanos Balafoutis, project coordinator, explains: “Our mission is to help people think locally and act globally through the use of bio-based solutions that will have a positive and lasting impact on rural communities in all aspects: economic, social and environmental.” We are very pleased that we will be able to develop together with rural people green solutions that will be adapted to their surrounding features and will contribute to a new impetus!”

The BioRural project is thus oriented towards ensuring and boosting cooperation between key stakeholders in the bioeconomy chain – from farmers, fishermen, foresters, rural inhabitants and innovators to various circles such as the private sector, policymakers, local governments, non-governmental organisations, schools, universities and training centres. The project partners underline that it is time to determine how to put this empowerment into practice.

 biorural tekst 2

The promotional brochure for the project is available here:



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