PerForm project members met for the second time in the beautiful city of Uppsala, Sweden between the 14th and 15th of March 2019. The meeting was hosted by Sara Holmgren of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) on the modern and convenient Ultuna campus.The rainy weather didn’t stop participants from enthusiastically engaging in research networking and project planning. Although only a short time has passed since the project kickoff, the team has made some remarkable progress.
Twenty-three participants, made up of masters’ and PhD students, professors and researchers representing all eight PerForm partner countries participated in the two day meeting. Sara Holmgren from SLU together with Ida Wallin from the University of Freiburg co-hosted the project meeting, and steered interesting discussions and a productive exchange of ideas.
How students perceive bioeconomy
The first part of the meeting started with a brief and comprehensive introduction about the multinational survey on student perceptions of bioceonomy, led by Mauro Masiero of TEASF. So far, some 1000 answers have been collected from all eight countries. This data is preliminary, but first results indicate that the bioeconomy concept has not yet reached too many university halls across Europe. As more results are coming in, this data will provide an important cornerstone for future decision making about bioeconomy education at faculties of environment and natural resources across Europe. TEASF, together with other PerForm institutions will prepare an interesting scientific article on this topic.
Students conducting their research on fellow student’s perceptions of the bioeconomy concept were given a platform to present their preliminary results, and discuss first challenges with data collection. Most students conducting their research within PerForm have made remarkable progress so far and collected hundreds of answers from numerous universities across Europe.
How consumers perceive bioeconomy
The second part of the meeting focused on the consumer survey and data collection process. Arttu Malkamäki, on behalf of the UHel group, presented the progress of this project task and discussed some issues that arised in the data collection process so far.
Again, students and data collectors have made remarkable progress. These dedicated researchers conducted numerous consumer surveys in busy town squares, shopping centers and home improvement stores. Some interesting preliminary results show that bioeconomy perceptions vary across countries and depend on demographics (for example age or educational background). A cross-country analysis on consumer perceptions of bioeconomy will be published under the lead of the UHel team.
How forest stakeholders perceive bioeconomy
The last part of day one focused on forest stakeholder perceptions of bioeconomy. Germany, Sweden and Austria have already performed this analysis with the help of master students. Two journal articles have already resulted from this work. The blueprint for the qualitative study will be adopted in other PerForm partner countries. The aim is another cross- country comparison of forest stakeholder perceptions on bioeconomy. This task will be led by Helga Pülzl of BOKU.
The way forward
The second day was dedicated to discussing some important future activities and mile-stones. Daniela Kleinschmit from the University of Freiburg briefed participants on the status of each project task, as well as clarified formalities related to project deliverables and funding. She also initiated plans for an upcoming PerForm special issue in an international journal that will collect all the scientific output produced by project members and by other institutions working on related topics.
Alex Giurca from the University of Freiburg briefed the PerForm consortium about the upcoming session on “Societal perceptions, new products, markets, and business models of the circular forest bioeconomy” (C9d) during the XXV IUFRO Congress in Curitiba, Brazil during 29th of September to 5th of October. Several PerForm researchers will present their research during this session. Alex also briefed participants about the planned PerForm e-learning course. The PerForm project has the ambitious objective of providing the first open online course on the forest-based bioeconomy in Europe.
The consortium also initiated preparations for the final conference
hosted by Arnaud Sergent and Ariane Carreira of IRSTEA in Bordeaux, France. Keep a lookout here on the blog for updates about the conference!
Meanwhile, students and data collectors exchanged tips and tricks for data collection and analysis, and discussed potential joint scientific publications. Some students have already moved on to data analysis and thesis writing whereas others have just started collecting the data. Pictures and information about the data collection for the urban consumer survey in Sweden can be found here. All the students’ hard work will in the end provide an invaluable contribution to our understanding of bioeconomy perception in Europe.
All in all, project members have shown remarkable dedication to the project goals and, as a result, have made exceptional progress. The results coming from this cooperation network will greatly improve our understanding of bioeconomy perceptions in Europe. It will provide researchers and decision makers with valuable insights into the societal acceptance of bioeconomy in Europe. Last but not least, the output generated by this project will serve as a valuable information source for evidenced-based bioeconomy policy making, and with that, hopefully generate a meaningful societal debate on the topic.