In a press release sent on Wednesday to the Lusa news agency, the UC explained that BioRural – which began in September 2022 and will last for three years, until 31 August 2025 – aims to “develop a framework to support the transition to a sustainable, regenerative and inclusive circular bioeconomy, throughout Europe”.
The project, which has a budget of three million euros and also aims to “support innovation agents in the introduction of small-scale biotechnological solutions in rural areas”, is led, at the University of Coimbra, by a team from the faculty of science and technology (FCTUC).
Cited in the press release, João Santos, PhD student and researcher at the department of mechanical engineering (DEM) of FCTUC, argued that rural Europe “urgently needs a paradigm shift”.
“With the migration of an increasing number of people to urban centres in recent decades, the current demographic distribution is quite uneven. Rural areas are inhabited by 30% of the European population, even though they correspond to more than 80% of the territory,” the researcher noted.
Moreover, according to José Baranda Ribeiro, professor of the department of mechanical engineering at FCTUC, “the economic activity of the European Union (EU) is largely dependent on linear production systems and non-renewable resources. Despite numerous attempts to reduce this dependence, the fact is that, for example, in 2018 alone, EU states produced 61.8 million tonnes of plastic.”
According to the FCTUC team, the consequences of the combination of a linear economy and extensive urbanisation “have exacerbated some of the problems chronically experienced by populations in rural areas, namely the high risk of poverty, limited access to services and basic infrastructure and low levels of education”, compared to other areas of the European Union.
Thus, BioRural intends to contribute to solving these economic, demographic and climate challenges, through the development and adoption of “inclusive solutions that will benefit all European rural areas”, he added.
Also according to the FCTUC team, BioRural “exists to create and promote the conditions for cooperation” between several actors in the bioeconomy chain, from farmers, fishermen and foresters to private companies, local administrative authorities, schools, universities and training centres, among others.
“By taking advantage of activities such as awareness raising activities, training sessions, and others with a strong impact on the various actors, the BioRural project will make available to them the sources of knowledge currently available,” said the researchers.
In a note published on its website, the biomass for energy centre (CBE), located in Miranda do Corvo, in the interior of the Coimbra region, defined BioRural as the “creation of a European working network in the area of rural bioeconomy, whose interest is to promote economic growth in rural areas, through bio-based solutions based on the circular economy concept”.
According to the CBE, the strategies to operationalise BioRural include, among others, an “assessment of the current state of play of the European rural bioeconomy” in areas such as food and agriculture, forestry and natural habitats, aquatic systems, bioenergy and biomaterials and “identification of factors influencing the adoption of innovative bio-based solutions in rural areas”.
The CBE explained that the 14 participating countries are divided into four regions (northwest, southwest, northeast and southeast), thus creating regional platforms for rural bioeconomy and then, by combining these four regions, BioRural aims to form a European network.
The recommended strategies also include the “identification, study and publication of successful cases of bio-based solutions in rural areas, in order to compile examples of good practice for similar projects”, as well as the aid “in the transfer of knowledge and building of skills among stakeholders”, with the promotion of workshops at national level, followed by workshops of regional bioeconomy platforms “and, finally, a European bioeconomy competition”.
The BioRural project is coordinated by the Centre for Research and Technology (CERTH/Greece) and includes, in addition to the Portuguese partners, institutions from Germany, Denmark, Slovenia, Spain, France, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, the Netherlands, Poland and Romania.