Investigating the dynamics of innovation and policy for biorefinery transition

The principal products of the bioeconomy are biobased products and bioenergy, while the funda­mental technology, introduced to replace petroleumbased refineries, is biorefineries. Thus, biorefin­eries underpin the future of many biobased products such as liquid biofuels for transport. Even though biorefinery ideas are increasingly discussed on paper, the adoption by Swedish industry and integration in existing infrastructures is limited.This could partly be explained by the demand for transition between technological systems on co-evolutionary processes including changes in governing institutions, regulation, mar­kets, user practices and industrial structure. In other words, transitions are complex not only on a technology basis, but also in regard to the surrounding conditions. Moreover, transitions do not follow a one-size-fits-all model but are shaped by contextual factors.

Lars Coenen at Lund University has led a project within the f3 - Energimyndigheten (Swedish Energy Agency) collaborative research program Renewable transportation fuels and systems (F√∂rnybara drivmedel och system) that has aimed to assess opportunities, challenges and steering options to expedite development and deployment of Swedish integrated biorefineries. The central research question has been: What pro­motes and hinders transition pathways to the development and deployment of integrated biorefin­eries in Sweden?

The project, as well as the report, has the title Enabling the transition to a bio-economy: innovation system dynamics and policy. Besides Lund University, SP (RISE) and Chalmers have been participating in the project. It was recently finished with results so far presented in six scientific articles. A large part of the work in the project has also been to construct a database with information about innova­tion projects related to biorefineries and biorefinery platform technologies in Sweden.

The project report summarizes the articles, elaborates on the database, and concludes that in international comparison, there is a number of significant strengths in the innovation system for Swedish biorefinery development. However, there are also critical factors such as e.g. weak industrial participation, lack of industrial absorptive capacity and weak collaboration across knowledge and organizational boundaries.

Read more and access all publications from the project here.