Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Agrar- und Ernährungspolitik

PolDeRBio Project

Background and problem statement

Governments around the globe have adopted a broad range of policies to support the growth and sustainable development of the bioeconomy, i.e. those sectors of the economy that are based on the utilization, management and exploitation of biological processes and resources (GBC 2018). Governments face the task to formulate bioeconomy policies that encourage innovations for novel products and services, increased productivity, income security, resource efficiency and the circular use of resources and at the same time address social and ecological externalities (Bell et al. 2018; GBC 2018; Philp 2018). This challenge is exacerbated by the novelty, diversity and complexity of the bioeconomy. While manifold policy strategies, regulations, standards and sustainability assessment tools have been established in various places (Birner 2018; Meyer 2017; Ladu and Blind 2017; Besi and McCormick 2015). ), a systematic and comprehensive policy design approach to bioeconomy policies has not been developed so far.
Currently, most bioeconomy strategies focus on investments in research, innovation and skills, stakeholder interaction and enhancement of markets (Bell et al. 2018), along with attempts to regulate some sustainability impacts of products and processes in the bioeconomy (Blind et al. 2017). However, it is unclear whether adequate attention is being paid to the long-term viability, or resilience, of the bio-based production systems (BBPS) on which the bioeconomy rests (Ge et al. 2016). BBPS are at the heart of the bioeconomy. Their resilience is therefore essential for the long-term viability of the bioeconomy. Although policy briefs and scientific literature have expressed a need for resilient bioeconomies (EC 2015; Fiksel 2006), the determinants of resilient bio-based production have received little attention (Ge et al. 2016) in comparison with the evaluation of sustainability issues in bioeconomies (Jordan et al. 2007; Lewandowski 2015; D’Amato et al. 2017). Frameworks and tools to assess how policies support the resilience of BBPS – and therefore the bioeconomy – are only in the early stages of development and testing (Termeer et al. 2018).


There is an urgent need to develop guidelines and assessment tools for a resilience-oriented policy design perspective on bioeconomy policies. On this basis, the project identifies distinct patterns of bioeconomy policies and the underlying factors to comparatively assess the policies’ ability to support the resilience of the BBPS on which the bioeconomy depends, and to derive guidelines for a resilience-oriented design of bioeconomy policies. The overall objective of PolDeRBio is to: i) develop an evidence-based theory of the factors that explain different designs and different levels and types of resilience orientation in bioeconomy policies and ii) to create conceptually and empirically grounded guidance for the development of policies that support the resilience of the BBPS on which the bioeconomy rests.
By achieving this objective, PolDeRBio: i) contributes to current debates in policy analysis about the principles and determinants of policy design; ii) adds to interdisciplinary knowledge about resilience management and the governance of social-ecological systems, and iii) improves the foundations for the practice of policy formulation and assessment in the areas of bioeconomy policy and BBPS, and iv) thereby contributes to the creation of viable and resilient bioeconomies.


Research question

The overarching research question of the PolDeRBio project is: How do national bioeconomy policy designs enhance or impede the resilience of BBPS and how can different resilience priorities and orientations be explained?


Scientific approach

In order to assess bioeconomy policies, PolDeRBio adopts the ‘new’ policy design perspective that is based on historical institutionalist theories of policy change and institutional development and that often embraces a comparative research agenda. Additional orientation for policy design and policy assessment is provided by the approach of resilience thinking. The topic-specific application of these theories is enabled by the concept of BBPS.