Government lays down the foundations for a UK Bioeconomy

The UK Government has published a report detailing the enormous opportunities resulting from growing the bioeconomy

The report ‘Building a high value bioeconomy: Opportunities from Waste’ presents the basis for the growth of the bioeconomy in the UK and the enabling actions required to realise the opportunity.

The report was produced by a cross-Whitehall and public sector working group comprised of Government Departments (DECC, Defra, BIS and DCLG), the Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN), the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), WRAP and NNFCC.

NNFCC has been working on bioeconomy development for over 11 years, taking a broad view of opportunities across chemicals, materials, fuels and energy and the need for coordinated value chain and market development. Through the Interreg NWE funded Bio Base NWE project, NNFCC has been working with regional partners to accelerate the growth of the bio-based economy across North West Europe including supporting National and European policy development.

As a member of the working group behind the report, NNFCC is delighted that Government departments have come together to present an integrated approach to the bioeconomy.

The publication builds on an earlier House of Lords study which concluded that the opportunity from the bioeconomy could amount to around £100 billion per year with waste and residues providing valuable raw materials. The UK generates 100 million tonnes of carbon containing waste and 14 million tonnes of bio-based residues from crops and forestry sources. The advanced management of wastes and residues would yield considerable economic benefits and could help to reduce the use of petrochemicals, virgin materials and finite resources worldwide, in turn contributing to reducing global carbon emissions and to increased sustainability and energy security.

NNFCC’s working group member Dr Adrian Higson commented “This report provides a starting point for the UK to broaden and integrate its strategies around bioenergy and industrial biotechnology to form an inclusive and comprehensive approach to the bioeconomy.

An important foundation for bioeconomy development is the UK’s world renowned research and technology base. Significant investments have been made to support Industrial Biotechnology development with the sector showing annual growth (CAGR) in turnover of 11% and in employment of 5% over the period 2009-2013. Building on this strength and with the right technology approach, 25 million tonnes of UK waste could be converted into roughly 5 million tonnes of bioethanol with a value of around £2.4 billion. The return from higher value chemical production would be even greater.

The legislative framework around the bioeconomy is both considerable and complex, covering waste regulations and renewable energy policies amongst others. Incentive schemes to support bioenergy could lead to unintentional consequences and regular reviews are required to minimise the risk of market distortion. The Bioenergy Strategy requires that Government takes into account evidence on the potential impact that incentives could have on other industries that use biomass feedstock.

Ensuring that industry has access to skilled work force, specialist infrastructure and support services, and financing are all critical actions to support sector growth and business competitiveness.

It is worth reiterating that the report is just a starting point and recognises that further work by sector stakeholders and Government is needed to identify actions to support and build on the UK’s existing strengths. Using the Government’s Industrial Strategy model, the intention is to develop a long term plan for bioeconomy development building on wastes and residues.
NNFCC looks forward to continuing its work with Government and business to maximise the economic, environmental and social benefits presented by the bioeconomy.

The full report is available for download here.


NNFCC, 2015-03-05.


Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)
Department for Business, Innovation & Skills
Department for Communities and Local Government
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA, UK)
Department for Transport and the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC)
Knowledge Transfer Network