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Bioeconomy timeline

Federal State (NRW) Level

Foundation of CLIB2021
March 30, 2007

Foundation of CLIB2021

In 2007, a Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) project „CLIB2021“, the Industrial Biotechnology Cluster, which strengthens biotechnology as a key technology for the bioeconomy, was created in NRW.

Foundation of BIO.NRW
September 19, 2007

Foundation of BIO.NRW

The federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia recognizes the importance of the biotechnology and establishes BIO.NRW is the umbrella organization for biotechnology in NRW.

BioSC foundation in NRW
October 21, 2010

BioSC foundation in NRW

The „Bioeconomy Science Center” (BioSC) is founded in North Rhine-Westphalia. It is the first institution to focus explicitly on bioeconomy research questions in Germany.

Strategy project for the development of a research infrastructure for the bioeconomy in NRW
May 17, 2013

Strategy project for the development of a research infrastructure for the bioeconomy in NRW

The state of North Rhine-Westphalia supports the BioSC within the framework of the NRW strategy project for the development of a research infrastructure for the bio-economy. It provides the necessary funds to further integrate the partners in research, development and education.

Key points of a knowledge-based bioeconomy strategy in NRW
July 26, 2013

Key points of a knowledge-based bioeconomy strategy in NRW

North Rhine-Westphalia is one of the first German states to publish a key issues paper on a knowledge-based bioeconomy strategy. Thereby North Rhine-Westphalia is one of the first regions in Europe to extend the definition of the bioeconomy to include the health sector and, in particular, pharmaceutical biotechnology, also known as red biotechnology. NRW places particular emphasis on the life science sector of the state and on biotechnological innovations.

The “BioökonomieREVIER” project is funded
August 1, 2019

The “BioökonomieREVIER” project is funded

The German government’s decision to phase out coal-fired power generation by 2038 at the latest will be followed by a structural change in the coal regions. Within this framework, the Rhenish mining district in North Rhine-Westphalia is to become a model region for the bioeconomy. With the support of the Federal Government, the BioökonomieREVIER project is being funded. With the support of science, industry and civil society, this project aims to turn the former lignite mining area into a model region for sustainable economic activity.

Why Bioeconomy in North Rhine-Westphalia?

Location North Rhine-Westphalia

North Rhine-Westphalia is part of the “Blue Banana”, a ribbon-shaped European metropolitan area that has developed into a megaregion within Europe through its cluster of urban centers. This region is characterized by an interweaving of population, economy, industry and knowledge. NRW is one of the most densely populated states in Germany and has thereby a large pool of employees. It also has the densest network of academic institutions in Germany, which leads to a highly qualified workforce. At the same time, however, NRW is also characterized by its decentralized areas with regions outside the metropolitan areas on the Rhine and Ruhr, where agricultural cultivation meets decentralized supply. In addition, parts of the state are still strongly influenced by lignite mining.

Like other regions, North Rhine-Westphalia is confronted with global societal challenges such as climate change, dwindling resources, loss of biodiversity, urbanization, demographic change and structural change. Solutions to these challenges are complex and require a comprehensive approach supported by society, business and state politics. The bioeconomy could play a role in addressing some of these issues, as North Rhine-Westphalia offers good conditions for the establishment of a bioeconomy model region:


  • NRW has agricultural and forestry land that can supply biogenic raw materials.
  • NRW is an agglomeration for population and industry and thus has a large quantitative and qualitative selection of residual, side-streams/by-products and waste-streams that can be used as source materials for new products/services.
  • NRW is embedded in a good infrastructure network so that materials and goods can be easily exchanged and (further)processed between the various agglomerations.
  • NRW has existing industrial value chains, especially in the chemical and pharmaceutical industry, the biotechnology, the energy sector, and the agriculture sector, which can be further expanded or linked across industry sectors in the sense of a bioeconomy.
  • NRW is a multi-center conurbation which complies with the principle of the bioeconomy, since the bioeconomy also has the potential to generate regional and decentralized value creation and jobs.
  • NRW has the highest density of scientific institutions in Germany. These institutions are the basis for innovation in the bioeconomy and they are also the foundation for education and training for new job profiles in the bioeconomy.

Development of the concept and definition of bioeconomy

There are many different definitions of the bioeconomy, which vary in their scope depending on the focus. Some bioeconomy definitions, for example, include the concept of circular economy.
However, all definitions of the bioeconomy are based on the assumption that the bioeconomy provides an approach to answer some of the most pressing questions of the 21st century. That is also because the concept of the bioeconomy developed from answering those very questions:


  • How can we feed a growing world population and at the same time provide access to prosperity for all without crossing planetary boundaries?
  • How can we replace finite resources such as oil, gas and coal?
  • And how can we stop global warming?


All these questions led to the development of the bio-economy concept and the most important steps of this development can be found in the timeline on this page. We also present here some definitions of the bioeconomy.




Different definitions of the bioeconomy

Definition of the bioeconomy by the federal government from the National Bioeconomy Strategy 2020
The Federal Government of Germany defines the bioeconomy as the production, exploitation and use of biological resources, processes and systems to provide products, processes and services across all economic sectors within the framework of a future-oriented economy. Innovations in the bioeconomy unite biological knowledge with technological solutions and utilize the inherent properties of biogenic raw materials such as their natural cycles, renewability and adaptability. The bioeconomy harbours the potential to provide new kinds of products and processes that protect natural resources and ensure our future prosperity.

Definition of the bioeconomy of North Rhine-Westphalia from the state government’s key issues paper of 2013
Die Landesregierung versteht unter Bioökonomie die Entwicklung neuer Produkte und Dienstleistungen unter nachhaltiger Nutzung von biologischen Ressourcen- u.a. für den Wandel von einer auf Erdöl basierenden hin zu einer auf nachwachsenden Rohstoffen basierenden Gesellschaft. Dies ist insbesondere für Nordrhein-Westfalen als einer der in Europa führenden Chemie-, Pharma- und Energie-Standorte von Bedeutung.

Definition of the EU from the revised Bioeconomy Strategy of 2018
Sustainable & Circular: Bioeconomy the European way
The bioeconomy covers all sectors and systems that rely on biological resources (animals, plants, micro-organisms and derived biomass, including organic waste), their functions and principles. It includes and interlinks: land and marine ecosystems and the services they provide; all primary production sectors that use and produce biological resources (agriculture, forestry, fisheries and aquaculture); and all economic and industrial sectors that use biological resources and processes to produce food, feed, bio-based products, energy and services. To be successful, the European bioeconomy needs to have sustainability and circularity at its heart. This will drive the renewal of our industries, the modernisation of our primary production systems, the protection of the environment and will enhance biodiversity.

Bioeconomy downloads/links/media

Key points of a bioeconomy strategy for North Rhine-Westphaliadownload pdf

Bioeconomy in Germany



National Bioeconomy Strategydownload pdf

Bioeconomy in the EU

  • The knowledge base for bioeconomy policymaking in the EU – Knowledge Centre for Bioeconomy
  • Policies, initiatives, events and publications in support of research and innovation in the bioeconomy of the EU –  Bioeconomy

Circular Economy Action Plan of the EU download pdf


Dr. Jasmin Schubert

Science Officer

Phone: 0211 385 469 – 9204

Key topics

Biotech Databases