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Where (and what) do Rural Areas in the Bioeconomy stand (for)? A reflection from the perspective of higher-level policy and regional actors

Bioeconomy offers prospects for a sustainable form of economy, in which biological resources can be efficiently processed in an environmentally and climate-friendly manner. Rural areas, in particular, can benefit from development opportunities generated by the use of renewable resources. This should be examined more closely. Thereby, the aspect of sustainability should be emphasized, with reference to the "tank-or-plate" debate.

In the anthology "Zukünfte nachhaltiger Bioökonomie" (Futures of a Sustainable Bioeconomy), the authors' article "Wo(für) steht der ländliche Raum in der Bioökonomie?" (Where (and what) do Rural Areas in the Bioeconomy stand (for)?) provides insights from two perspectives: On the one hand it is presented how rural areas are perceived by bioeconomy policy actors, and on the other side, how regional actors perceive the bioeconomy concept. The authors reference on findings from three research projects. The basis for the observation was the analysis of political strategy papers from the EU level to the federal state level, as well as of different participation formats carried out in the projects. A number of these formats had a specific regional focus dealing with the Berlin-Brandenburg region, the northeast of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, the Lake Constance region and Franconia.

Based on their analysis, the authors find that rural areas are gaining increasing significance in the political sphere. Rural areas are no longer only considered as source for raw materials, but also as places for processing these, and thus for generating added value and employment. Diverse and quite contradictory characteristics could be identified, when examining the perspective of regional actors on bioeconomy: While some actors approach bioeconomy with reluctance, others are curious, or have a thirst for action. These findings are explained in more detail with some examples. In addition, the authors provide an overview of challenges and opportunities of bioeconomy in rural areas also from the perspective of regional actors. These are divided into the areas of 'biomass provision/environmental protection', 'achieving value creation/economy', and 'social embedding/politics and society'.

The authors conclude their article with summarizing their findings. With the growing interest of politics in rural areas and regional actors in bioeconomy, policy making becomes increasingly complex. The authors suggest that it requires dialogue, exchange and networking formats to implement a sustainable bioeconomy in the long term. These formats should address both demands and concerns about possible developments of bioeconomy in rural areas. Furthermore, the actors involved in these formats should discuss possible courses of action for the individual groups of actors. At an early stage, this form of communication can prevent possible conflicts of objectives due to different interests.

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