A Summary of WRAP Cymru’s Welsh Bioeconomy Summit 2018

Carl Nichols and Tina Schmieder-Gaite in front of a WRAP pull-up banner

On 18th October 2018, WRAP Cymru brought together a range of people from organisations that are actively working in the Welsh bioeconomy. The intention was to present some of the research that WRAP has undertaken to determine the shape, scale and scope of Wales’ existing bioeconomy and to discuss and agree the best ways to accelerate its growth and deliver new business, jobs and productivity.

Attendees took part in workshop discussions and were asked to articulate their vision for the Welsh bioeconomy and what measures they think need to be put in place to allow the sector to function well and thrive. Below is a summary of the key points that WRAP Cymru gleaned from the discussions that took place.

It was agreed that a successful Welsh bioeconomy will:

  1. Be recognised: A successful Welsh bioeconomy will be recognised and supported nationally (i.e. by Welsh Government) and seen as a vibrant centre of expertise and enterprise that works alongside other bioeconomic clusters in Yorkshire and Scotland.
  2. Deliver against policy needs: There will be coherent policy thinking that recognises that the bioeconomy can deliver against Welsh policy objectives for waste and resources, the well-being of future generations, economics, jobs and skills.
  3. Make the best use of Welsh resources: We will have a much better understanding of resource flows in Wales and waste will be valued at the highest possible level of the hierarchy. Zero waste will be a reality for all businesses, not an aspiration. Food waste and other waste streams will be minimised and then used to manufacture new products (or energy), creating higher productivity and new businesses. 
  4. Operate in real markets: There will be a functioning and vibrant market and infrastructure for bio-based activities in Wales. Maximising the utility/re-usability of bioresources will be considered common sense, normal activity amongst both businesses and consumers.
  5. Make use of active collaboration and communication: The small business core strength in Wales will be harnessed to create collaborative clusters that are well-connected with scientific excellence, funding streams and supply chains. Communication mechanisms will be clear with alignment between government, industry and academia, success will be celebrated, and the impact of the bioeconomy will be measurable and reported.
  6. Operate well in the existing regulatory landscape: Regulators will be clear enablers who support the growth of the bioeconomy in Wales and challenge waste production. Conversations between regulators and the regulated will take place early in the development of new business, and the environment in Wales will be protected and enhanced by the development of the bioeconomy.

What do we need to do to get there?

  1. Report measure and map policy impact: It is clear that the bioeconomy can contribute to the goals of more than one Welsh Government policy area and will deliver against many policy goals for some areas. We need to ensure that those involved in developing the bioeconomy in Wales adopt a common set of reporting lines that can be used by more than one policy team.
  2. Report, measure and map resources: WRAP Cymru’s bioeconomy mapping tool is a starting point and should be used and further developed to ensure that it is fit for purpose for a number of different users. Development of the Welsh bioeconomy will be dependent on accurate knowledge of resources in Wales, which this tool will assist with.
  3. Development of supply chains: If we know where resources are used in quantity, where resources are generated as waste, and where resources are needed to create new businesses then it is potentially possible to actively link individual actors in the supply chain together. Similarly, where we have funded early technology readiness (TRL) level development through research, it ought to be possible to drive a proportion of promising projects through development levels and potentially to commercialisation.
  4. Develop and use a clear communications plan: Our current bioeconomy landscape is a crowded space with several different organisations operating in different places. In addition, the bioeconomy is sometimes not the prime driver for the work of some of these organisations. There is a need for a clear communications plan to be developed that can be populated by all organisations working in the space. WRAP Cymru has started to create a newsletter to fill the current void; however, there is a need for sophisticated communications thinking beyond this to ensure that the multiple strands of work deliver a strong message and a benefit that is greater than the sum of the individual parts. 
  5. Develop a bioeconomy pact: Bring together all those working in the bioeconomy in Wales. Agree a strategy to deliver success, establish bespoke targets, develop common metrics, and set out a timetable for delivery. If done well, a pact could bring individual bioeconomy actors together to enable the recognition of their separate successes, which are sometimes not easy to see. It should also facilitate a much broader conversation that clearly demonstrates the economic, social and environmental benefits of the bioeconomy across Wales as a whole.