This seems to be gradually changing. There is a growing appreciation for sustainability, including climate change, amongst EU consumers – especially younger generations – and bio-based products are increasingly being sold for the same cost as fossil-based ones with similar or improved performance.
Markets have long been recognised as important drivers of innovation. Reducing the time-to-market of new innovative products and applications enable emerging sectors to grow faster, as companies will see a quicker return on their R&D and innovation investments. This has clearly been demonstrated by the European BBI JU that is financially supporting projects, including demo and flagship ones, that lead to new commercially available products and applications. Even more interesting is the growing participation of brand owners and companies in projects that bring bio-based products to the market and the consumer.
Not a single brand owner participated in the first BBI JU projects in the course of its launch in 2014. Today multiple companies are participating from different sectors such as personal care, construction, furniture, fashion and textile, automotive, food and drinks, paints, healthcare and nutrition, packaging, and many more. This illustrates the growing market penetration of bio-based products. It is therefore crucial that the new European Commission continues with these kinds of initiatives and partnerships in Europe, building on the good experience from the last few years.
Although we are making some progress, there is also a need for more transparent communication to the public at large and towards consumers and consumer organisations. Consumers should still be informed in a straightforward manner based on facts about the sustainability, challenges and benefits of bio-based products, as well as the societal innovation benefits from shifting to the bio-economy. BBI JU projects such as BioCannDo, BioWays and BioBridges are good initiatives which are developing tools and materials that are freely available to all stakeholders. We recommend looking at their websites and making use of their tools.