To facilitate a fair bioeconomy transition, stronger regional-level linkages are needed

Biofuels, Bioproducts and Biorefining, published online 29.03.2022, 19 p. DOI: 10.1002/bbb.2363

The great hopes in Brussels that a circular bioeconomy will help bridge the growing divide between urban and rural areas and allow the hinterlands to prosper from ‘green growth’ are addressed in this article, which reflects on insights from three Nordic case studies of brown, green and blue biomass use at different levels of technology readiness. A closer examination of the forward, backward, fiscal and final demand linkages at regional level from increased biomass utilization, from eastern Finland and northern Sweden to Jutland and North Atlantic islands, suggests that linkages are and will remain relatively weak, predominantly dashing the expectations. As suppliers and exporters of natural resources, disadvantaged regions may all too easily get locked into a ‘staples trap’, where the value creation evaporates, due in part to the steep start-up costs and the associated boom-and-bust cycles, which place them in a weak position vis-à-vis the resource manufacturers and consumers. To make the prospects of development, employment and prosperity in the hinterlands materialize, measures are needed to strengthen the regional level economic linkages. Regional-level revolving funds based on benefit-sharing instruments related to natural resources can be used to bolster economic development as reflected in such schemes present in both China and Canada. We call for further research into whether and how such approaches can be replicated successfully by channeling revenues from biomass cultivation to regional-scale revolving funds, with mandates to strengthen long-term economic linkages and prosperity within the hinterlands.