The forestry industry already makes an important contribution to the bioeconomy. A project called “CirculAlps” will expand and diversify this contribution as well as promoting the circular economy in the Alpine timber sector. BIOPRO Baden-Württemberg GmbH is working with four partners from Austria, Slovenia and Italy in order to turn the CirculAlps vision into reality. The project was launched in January 2018 within the framework of EUSALP – the EU Strategy for the Alpine Region – and is supported by the Alpine Region Preparatory Action Fund (ARPAF).
The most recent of the EU’s four macro-regional strategies*, the EU Strategy for the Alpine Region (EUSALP), was launched in January 2016 during the partners’ inaugural conference. The Alpine region is one of the most productive regions in Europe economically and is home to around 70 million inhabitants. In the future, this diverse region will face major challenges such as globalisation, demographic change, climate change and energy insecurity. In addition, the region is characterised by another special feature; its unique geographical position in Europe as a transit and holiday region with several million visitors every year. The EU Strategy for the Alpine Region provides an opportunity to tackle the aforementioned complex challenges by improving cross-border cooperation in the Alpine regions and countries. Above all, the aim of EUSALP is to generate added value through the establishment of new relationships between metropolitan regions, rural regions and mountainous regions. Three main policy areas were identified: economic growth and innovation, environmentally friendly mobility and the sustainable management of cultural, natural and energy resources . The strategy thus focuses specifically on sustainability as well as the economy and social well-being.
To support the EU Strategy for the Alpine Region, the European Parliament has set aside two million euros for preparatory actions (ARPAF). These funds will be used to support the implementation of the strategy in the policy areas of environment and mobility. Five projects that will focus on demographic change, environmentally friendly mobility as well as bioeconomy and the circular economy will be funded with ARPAF funds. The project “CirculAlps”, which is supported by BIOPRO Baden-Württemberg, deals with the topics bioeconomy and circular economy.
Industry has a number of options for achieving the transformation from a fossil fuel-based economy to one based on biological resources. The quantities of biobased raw materials that are available or being developed differ on regional and national levels. In Baden-Württemberg, achieving the transition to a bioeconomy depends to a large degree on renewable biological resources from the areas of waste management, agriculture and forestry. Thirty-eight percent of Baden-Württemberg is covered with forest, which makes the region a great raw material supplier for the bioeconomy. Timber is a raw material that can be used directly in the construction industry. It can also be used indirectly by utilising and transforming the residual materials and other bi-products that accumulate in the timber processing industry.
In order to strengthen the forestry industry in the Alpine region** in terms of bioeconomy and the circular economy, the project "CirculAlps" seeks to improve the transnational collaboration between the regions and countries involved. Five partners from Slovenia, Austria, Italy and Baden-Württemberg have joined forces with the goal of analysing and evaluating regional and difficult-to-access forest systems. The analyses will be carried out to find out whether circular economies and bioeconomies are able to create additional value for the development of the Alpine region. BIOPRO Baden-Württemberg will contribute its many years of experience in creating value with innovative bio-based products. Subsequently, political and social framework conditions will be evaluated and recommendations be given on how innovation can be achieved in these areas. The entire process will be discussed in workshops involving local stakeholders with the goal of achieving a broad understanding and a high degree of involvement among all market-relevant participants.
The long-term objective is to improve the socio-economic status of the population in rural and remote areas of the Alpine region. Another goal is to enable the forestry industry to remain competitive in today's market and the future needs of a bioeconomy and the circular economy by developing innovative biobased, wood-based products. The "CirculAlps" project will receive funding totalling 300,000 euros from the European Union for a period of 24 months.
* The European Union’s four macro-regional strategies address challenges faced by defined geographical areas (the Baltic Sea, the Danube river, the Adriatic and the Ionian Sea, the Alps). These strategies are policy instruments aimed at strengthening cooperation between EU regions and countries in the same geographical area, contributing to economic, social and territorial cohesion.
** The EU Strategy for the Alpine Region involves seven countries and 48 regions, including Baden-Württemberg.