Creating a sustainable and inclusive forest-based bioeconomy in Europe

Published on

The bioeconomy has mobilised significant investments in technology, research and innovation. New and innovative bio-products and related services have emerged, and related niche markets show dynamic growth. The future of the bioeconomy, however, raises questions relating to its development potential, but also its sustainability. 

The latest What Science Can Tell Us study from the European Forest Institute assesses the scientific evidence and provides a synthesis of existing knowledge for policymakers on the importance of forests and the forest-based sector in contributing to the future European bioeconomy. It assesses the economic, social and environmental sustainability of a forest-based bioeconomy, and looks at issues that may affect its development.

The study concludes that a future European forest-based bioeconomy needs to be sustainable and socially inclusive. Substantial intellectual, political and economic investments are needed to underpin such a development, including:

  • Building upon the entire spectrum of ecosystem services that forests provide, ranging from forest biomass to growing business sectors such as tourism, education, and non-wood products;
  • Taking a multi-level policy approach to acknowledge regional differences, including the development of forest-based bioeconomy clusters in transnational regions;
  • Tackling and emphasizing sustainability in all dimensions as a precondition for societal and political support;
  • Searching for and exploiting untapped synergies and resources, and specifically exploring ‘win-win’ development options;
  • Enhancing cross-sectoral cooperation, going beyond the forest sector;
  • Creating a stable level playing field internalizing sustainability issues into the market at European scale, and possibly beyond, and innovation policies to nurture emerging markets;
  • Providing better information, for example via a renewed system of indicators;
  • Encouraging societal inclusivity, including amongst urban populations, and working towards a European “biosociety”.

Georg Winkel, Head of EFI’s Resilience Programme and the study coordinator said: “Stakeholders and decision makers debate the potential of Europe’s forests in contributing to a bioeconomy. This report provides them with the best available information from research across the continent – a compilation of scientific evidence for informed decisions relating to a future European forest based bioeconomy.”

The interdisciplinary scientific study was conducted by a team of 48 scientists from 27 research institutes in 12 countries. Thirteen of EFI’s Associate Members were involved.

Further information

Georg Winkel (editor). 2017. Towards a sustainable European forest-based bioeconomy – assessment and the way forward. What Science Can Tell Us 8. European Forest Institute. 162pp.

The study is published on 20.12.207 and is freely downloadable:

An executive summary is available:

Further information from Lauri Hetemäki, EFI Assistant Director ( lauri.hetemaki @

The European Forest Institute is an unbiased, science-based international organisation that provides the best forest science knowledge and information for better informed policy making. The What Science Can Tell Us series brings together cross-boundary scientific knowledge and expertise to strengthen science-policy dialogue on a focused issue.

This work and publication has been financed by EFI’s Multi-Donor Trust Fund for policy support, which is supported by the Governments of Austria, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Spain and Sweden.