Living lab in Italy

@ BIOCOM AG (last living lab in Veneto region)

22.08.2017 -

Between November 2016 and July 2017, the BioSTEP project designed and implemented a so-called living lab in the Veneto region of Italy. The Regional Association of Chambers of Commerce of Veneto with the contribution of Aghetera organised a total of seven meetings in which stakeholders discussed potential policy actions for the further development of the regional bioeconomy. The final stakeholder meeting took place on 28 June 2017. For detailed information on the Veneto living lab please download:

What are living labs?

In a living lab, different stakeholders meet to discuss and influence the development of their region. In our case, the group strived for the further development of the bioeconomy in the Veneto region. But how did it work? At first, participants identified the overall topic, their role and a specific goal. Following, participants came up with ideas, then clustered and prioritized them. With the help of a special technique, each idea was separated from its initiator and evaluated in the group. The different action points that emerged were tested with regard to their feasibility. Participants came up with a strategic action plan that was then debated with local policy actors and will ideally be taken up to be included in policy strategies.

The participants of the Veneto living lab were as diverse as the resources of the region, coming from industry, science, cultural institutions and the public sector. The living lab activities in the Veneto region of Italy were split into two phases: the first phase focusing on concept mapping and the second phase focusing on the development and discussion of concrete (policy) measures to support the development of the regional bioecomomy. Combined, all meetings brought a wealth of insights into which the following lines will give a glimpse.

A regional network of bioeconomy actors

Participants agreed that a primary objective should be the creation of a regional network of bioeconomy actors. Actors should strive for the vertical and horizontal integration of the supply chain, with the aim of building certified chains from the producer to the consumer. The creation of integrated supply chains between farmers, primary processors, and industrial users (even if belonging to different sectors, but interested in different biomass components) should be encouraged. This could – for example – support the emergence of integrated regional bio-refineries with the greatest environmental and economic benefits for the local communities.

Explaining what bioeconomy is 

There needs to be “an increase in interaction with the world of education and scientific research”. Trainings for teachers and a glossary, explaining bioeconomy terms, could be a first step. Multimedia tools catch the attention of students best, such as video-clips or interviews on bioeconomy related topics that are published on platforms with large outreach. However, one challenge to implement this is the lack of funding for these kinds of initiatives.

Developing a new brand

A “Bio Veneto Quality” brand could help small and medium enterprises of the region to be known, to export, to grow and to enter new markets. The linkage between product and region could help recognize the value of the product and fuel the development of new start-ups. The “Bio Veneto Quality” brand would label certified products and make it easier for the producers to promote them.

Hemp – or the importance of investment security

Hemp cultivation and processing was identified as a possible way to realize the potential of the regional bioeconomy. In the Veneto region, the use of hemp in textile has a historical tradition. Still nowadays, regional companies are full of ideas on how to use this renewable resource. One company is working on a pilot project, pressing the seeds of hemp, others are using hemp to create insulating materials. Generally, potential strategic areas of business development include the seed, shives, straw, food and therapeutic uses. Questions remain, however, concerning the related costs and timescale of implementation. Moreover, the existing unclear regulatory framework emerged as one of the fundamental issues to be dealt with. Investors are afraid of sanctions or company closure, which hinders the build-up of supply chains for hemp within the region.

The political perspectives

The final stakeholder meeting in the context of the Veneto living lab involved policy actors from the region. Participants agreed that to develop the bioeconomy, one must start from the lowest level, from the communities and make use of their natural resources. Only then can bioeconomy become a trend. If citizens get engaged, politicians are motivated to deal with Cooperatives and Associations. These alliances are vital for a movement. Currently, the development of a stronger bioeconomy is hindered by a lack of communication among actors. The “main problems are cultural and structural” and “new ways are needed to link individual players into a network with shared long-term goals” were opinions voiced.

Another point of discussion was the supply chain. More diversification could help to reduce the dependence on foreign countries and improve land use practices. A shift from intensive monocultures (which result in land exploitation and soil degradation) to more diversification could increase the value of the different land types and territories.

Outlook

The Veneto living lab succeeded to create a network of stakeholders involved in areas of the bioeconomy. Although the participants did not manage to start a pilot project together during the living lab, follow-up meetings on certain topics have been agreed upon. The mutual exchange will continue and some partners decided to take steps forward.

The first living lab in Bulgaria will take place on the 13th of October 2017 in the Stara Zagora Regional Museum of History.

Media Contact:

Laura Griestop
info(at)bio-step.eu
Phone: +49 30 2649 2158
BIOCOM AG
Luetzowstr. 33-36
10785 Berlin, Germany



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