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The greening of the Flemish economy is accelerating. In 2020, 34% of the physical Flemish economy (i.e. excluding services) will be based on non-fossil raw materials. The pharmaceutical industry leads the way with a biobased share of 50% already in 2020. Green chemistry is also growing strongly (+24%). The total biobased economy in Flanders grew three times as fast (+21%) as the traditional, physical economy (+6%) in five years.
Editorial office / Lessines

These figures come from the recently published Bioeconomy Monitor, which ILVO and VITO conduct every year on behalf of the B2BE Facilitator and the Flemish Department of Economy, Innovation, Work, Social Economy and Agriculture (EWI). Based on figures from the German Nova Institute, the monitor accurately estimates the evolution of the biobased part in the various bio-economic and ‘hybrid’ bio-economic sectors in Flanders.

Minister for EWI Jo Brouns emphasises that the Flemish government is fully committed to encouraging the use of biomass and non-fossil raw materials to make products. “For instance, we started the B2BE Facilitator to strengthen the cooperation between the pharmaceutical and chemical industries with the agricultural sector, among other things. Many farmers are looking for alternative earning models. They are willing to experiment with new crops that provide the biomass the industry needs to move away from fossil feedstock. This is how we create a win-win.”

Performance varies by sector

Sectors with a significant biobased share that have seen their performance rise in recent years include agriculture, food, pharma and waste treatment. Of all bioeconomic sectors, pharma delivers the second highest added value, with very high labour productivity. This leads to an increase in the added value of both the biobased (+27%) and the entire pharma sector (+44%).

The chemical sector also scores well. There is an increase in the added value of the biobased parts of chemistry between 2016 and 2020 (+24%). But unlike pharma, the added value of the entire chemical sector is down 10%.”

These figures were announced during the Angelica harvest in Lessen at the farm of Annelise Coessens, who has been pioneering aromatic roots for years. Processing company Sotecna extracts essential oils from them for the flavour or fragrance industry, but also has ambitions towards pharma. The Flanders’ FOOD cluster project Aroma-roots, with support from VLAIO, is also giving four Flemish farmers the chance to experiment with aromatic crops.

Image: harvest of the Angelica root in Lessen (B)