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More than wood: Innovation and entrepreneurship in cork, resin, edibles and other forest products

30.11.2017 10:14

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A demand-driven approach is needed for non-wood forest products (NWFPs) to become a credible contender in a circular bioeconomy. NWFPs are increasingly a viable and often more sustainable alternative to less planet friendly materials but profitability is a challenge and consumers must not only be informed but also should value such green alternatives and be willing to pay for them.

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Business people, researchers and local government officials explored these issues in some depth during the second in the EFI Bioeconomy Dialogue series, held on 28th November at the Sant Pau Historic Site in Barcelona, Spain. The Dialogue, which focussed on innovation and entrepreneurship in NWFPs, was held in partnership with Sant Pau’s Sustainable Forest Hub, with representatives from the Generalitat de Catalonia (Catalan government) and the Diputació de Barcelona (Barcelona City Council) in attendance. Also present were project partners from the new EC-funded INCREdible project on Innovation Networks for NWFPs, with the event preceding the project Kick-Off Meeting.

After the welcome from local authorities, presentations from business, research and policy perspectives stimulated debate for participants to share expertise and experiences in a world café focussing on the challenges and opportunities for NWFPs in three categories: cork / resins; aromatic plants; and edibles (mushrooms, truffles, pine nuts, chestnuts, berries, etc).

Key messages found that collaboration and cooperation are very much required: actors must work together, not only within different NWFP sectors, but also cross-sectorially. Viable value chains are needed, with associations and cooperatives for farmers and forest owners among the recommendations. Traceability and bio-labelling were further key elements relevant to all NWFP sectors, while regulation of harvesting of wild products is still a challenge. An emerging but hitherto under exploited avenue is the connection between NWFPs and eco-tourism, health and well-being. With 25% of European households venturing out into the forest at least once a year to pick wild NWFP*, there is a significant opportunity for valuation and recognition of the benefits provided by such activities, but a considerable challenge remains as to how that might be effectively realised. /files/images/efimed/news/2017/bioecod_worldcafe_350.jpg : 97Kb

The Dialogue provided an inspirational starting point for the Kick-Off meeting of a new EC-funded project, which will share knowledge on NWFP and collaborate on developing innovative business models and inclusive economic strategies for rural regions. Innovation Networks of Cork, Resin and Edibles in the Mediterranean basin (INCREdible) is a 3-year Coordination and Support Action, coordinated by EFIMED, which will address the gap between existing research and innovation knowledge on service systems for Non-Wood Forest Products (NWFP) in the Mediterranean.

INCREdible will develop Innovation Networks (iNets) in five significant areas for Mediterranean NWFPs: cork; nuts and berries; resins; mushrooms and truffles; and aromatic and medicinal plants. Each iNet will gather and share best practices related to NWFP production, transformation and trade channels, from both practical and science-based perspectives.

*European household survey (2016), StarTree project

World Café discussion: the challenges and opportunities for entrepreneurship and innovation for NWFPs

28/11/2017 Bioeconomy Dialogue

Photos: Sarah Adams, EFIMED

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