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Introduction to Sustainable Bioeconomy: An Online Course for Everyone

The bioeconomy is not simply a niche topic for experts. It concerns us all. There is no silver bullet that will solve all our societal and environmental problems. Just like with any ambitious paradigm shift, it requires broad societal engagement, open debates and critical (and most often difficult) discussions. But we think it is all worth it, and that is why we, together with researchers from Freiburg University and the University of Padova, developed an online course on how a circular bioeconomy could aid sustainability and help to face multiple simultaneous challenges related to the environment: the threat of climate change, resource depletion, population growth, and overconsumption.

Bioeconomy is a living concept. Discourses evolve. Opinions and visions of what a better future ought to look like shift. Indeed, the bioeconomy offers a unique opportunity to reshape our current production and consumption pathways, break free from our fossil-dependency, and co-create a truly innovative, sustainable and inclusive economy that works for all. But in order for this to happen, we need broad international involvement, we need to forge innovative inter-sectoral cooperation networks, we need unbiased and fact-based communication and we need to have critical debates about the meaning of sustainability in the bioeconomy context. But most importantly, we need to educate the bioeconomy leaders of tomorrow.

This was our motivation for creating this course. We genuinely believe that any momentous societal change must have the inclusion and cooperation of different societal stakeholders at its core.

Who we are?

We are a network of scientists investigating societal perceptions of the forest-bioeconomy across Europe. Our network was supported by the European Forest Institute’s Network Fund. Besides a special issue on bioeconomy policies and public perceptions in the Ambio journal, one of the main outputs from our research was the “Introduction to Sustainable Bioeconomy” course which is now available on the FutureLearn platform for millions of users from around the world.

What you will learn

In addition to imparting technological knowledge, bioeconomy education must be accompanied by instruction in other types of knowledge, particularly ‘transformative knowledge’. Such transformative knowledge involves skills for both effective communication, the ability to plan and conduct participatory processes, policy knowledge and decision-making competences, as well as the capacity of self-reflection and reevaluate certain values and assumptions [1]. Such a transformative approach to knowledge is a necessity if the bioeconomy leaders of tomorrow are indeed to practice ‘new thinking’ for fundamentally reshaping the status quo and coming up with new solutions.

A network of scientists investigating societal perceptions of the forest-bioeconomy across Europe. The network was supported by the European Forest Institute’s Network Fund.

To impart such transformative knowledge, our course covers several topics such as:

  • European and national bioeconomy policies and research strategies
  • Emerging bioeconomy discourses
  • The diversity of bioeconomy stakeholders, their perceptions and expectations regarding bioeconomy
  • Innovations and Innovativeness for jumpstarting a sustainable bioeconomy transformation

What will you achieve?

So why does this all matter? Will you be able to practice transformative, original thinking to bioeconomy policymaking in Europe? We believe so. By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to…

  • Interpret the latest developments of the (forest-based) bioeconomy in Europe
  • Apply different conceptual approaches for interpreting the bioeconomy
  • Explain how this concept emerged and how different European countries approach it in their national political strategies
  • Discuss what these different national approaches mean for the forest-based sector in the countries presented
  • Interpret the latest research on stakeholder and citizen perception in the bioeconomy
  • Summarize some of the most important innovations that currently shape the bioeconomy in Europe
  • Debate the biggest opportunities and challenges that these innovations pose for the forest-based sector

We warmly welcome you to our course and we wish you an inspiring learning journey. After all, the bioeconomy is ours to make.

[1] S. Urmetzer, J. Lask, R. Vargas-Carpintero, and A. Pyka, “Learning to change: Transformative knowledge for building a sustainable bioeconomy,” Ecol. Econ., vol. 167, no. August 2019, p. 106435, 2020, doi: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2019.106435.


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