The Craftsmanship of Bio-Based Value Chains Selection
Updated: Feb 28
As one of the first tasks of the HARMONITOR project, from a long list of 538 (!) bio-based products, we needed to select the 35 most relevant value chains, which will be scrutinised further within the project. For instance, we would like to obtain insight into trade volumes and the level of sustainability certification of the selected bio-based value chains. So where to start? Well, first of all, we screened whether production and trade data are available by checking the statistical codes for production (PRODCOM) and trade between countries (CN) is available for the individual products. This way we could reduce the list down to 327 bio-based products.
Next, we investigated whether these are drop-in (identical to their fossil alternative) or dedicated (chemically unique) bio-based materials or products. This is important, as drop-in bio-based chemicals appear in the same statistical category as their chemically identical fossil-based counterparts, making it impossible to determine the production and trade volumes of these drop-ins using only statistics! It appeared that the preselected group of 327 bio-based products consists of 101 drop-ins and 226 dedicated bio-based products.
Production and trade data of the dedicated bio-based product was obtained from European statistical web interface COMEXT (formerly known as Easy COMEXT, but actually it’s only accessible by nerds). Then we ordered these products from high to low production and trade volume. Regarding the drop-ins, given the absence of statistics, by using literature, including BTG’s earlier work for JRC “insights into the European market for bio-based products” that we are still very proud of, we identified the 40 most relevant drop-in bio-based products. All together we now have about 100 bio-based products to select from.
After this pre-work, we called for the wisdom of all consortium partners and formulated further selection criteria. This way we ensure a representative mix of bio-based products, using various feedstocks (including residues and wastes), covering a broad range of sectors, relevant for EU policy-making, currently traded, and relevant for further analysis of sustainability certification schemes. A mouthful. Using these criteria, after a long rail trip to Berlin, and a long workshop in Berlin that was extended for two hours, on 2 November at 19.32 we agreed on our draft top 40, followed up by excellent German craft beer and dinner. The next weeks we reduced the list, discussed again, talked to our sister projects, and finally decided to work the next years with the following 35 great bio-based value chains: