Ireland & the Bioeconomy

Facts and figures

Published on 20-01-2017 15:24:53 by AGRIFORVALOR

CakePHP The bioeconomy has become a central theme to many initiatives, policies and research studies emanating across Europe, including our own AGRIFORVALOR network.

The bioeconomy has become a central theme to many initiatives, policies and research studies emanating across Europe, including our own AgriForValor network.  It encompasses the production of renewable biological resources and their conversion into food, feed, bio-based products and bioenergy (1). This includes primary production - such as agriculture, forestry, fisheries and aquaculture - and industries using/processing biological resources, such as the food and pulp and paper industries and parts of the chemical, biotechnological and energy industries. The bioeconomy is nothing new, it includes many traditional sectors and already the EU’s bioeconomy sectors are worth €2 trillion in annual turnover and account for more than 22 million jobs and approximately 9% of the workforce (1).

The reason for the recent emphasis in bioeconomy-related matters is centred around many of the challenges facing us over the coming decades;

  • ensuring we can feed a growing population – expected 70% increase in food demand by 2050 (1)
  • meeting growing energy needs while reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and climate impact
  • managing our resources more efficiently
  • re-industrialization and rural development in Europe

A strong bioeconomy will be central to finding a resolution to these challenges. Already enormous advances have been made in food production, and in the coming decades we will start to see new applications from biobased feedstocks, as clean bioenergy and biomaterials begin to replace their finite fossil counterparts.

A strong bioeconomy can increase competitiveness, preserve existing jobs, whilst adding new highly skilled jobs through new industrial biotechnology and biorefineries which can transform existing bio-based industries, create new ones, and open new markets for bio-based products (1). The bioeconomy will have particular impact in advancing rural areas which account for 91% of the EU territory, home to more than 56% of the EU's population (2). It is estimated that a further 700,000 jobs could be created in the Bioeconomy by 2030 with 80% coming in rural areas (3).

With 64% of land used for agricultural purposes, Ireland places second in the list of EU countries with the highest percentage of land devoted to agriculture (4), combined with a growing forestry sector, an innovative research community and strong food and pharma sectors, Ireland could be well-placed to take a leading role in the next bioeconomy chapter.  Whilst there is no overarching bioeconomy strategy, there is a commitment to develop one. In the 2016 Action Plan for Jobs, the Irish Government committed to initiating an examination of the scope, feasibility and conditions necessary for the development of a national bio-economy strategy (5). The right policy mix will be essential in ensuring Ireland can take full advantage of the opportunities offered by the growing bioeconomy.


James Gaffey, IT Tralee


  1. European Commission (2012) Innovating for Sustainable Growth – A Bioeconomy for Europe.
  2. Gallardo-Cobos, R. (2010) Rural development in the European Union: the concept and the policy, Agronomía Colombiana 28(3), pp. 475-481.
  3. Biobased Industries Joint Undertaking (2016) Call for Proposals.
  4. O’Shaughnessy, M., H. O’Connor, and C. Smiddy (2012). Support for Farmers’ Cooperatives; Country Report Ireland. Wageningen: Wageningen UR.
  5. Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (2016) Action Plan for Jobs 2016.