On May 18th BIOTEXFUTURE successfully hosted the Spring 2022 Forum. In total 278 people participated. 48 experienced the event on “Shaping the Future of the Bio-Based Textile Value Chain” live on-site at the adidas headquarters in Herzogenaurach and the rest joined via zoom.
In the past five years investors, startups, brands and consumers have continuously educated themselves with regards to bio-based textiles. At the same time, the past focus on productivity and scale have barely left any space for material innovation, which is needed in shaping the future of the bio-based textile value chain. Material innovation is currently the major pillar of most BIOTEXFUTURE projects following the programs vision of converting the textile value chain from petroleum-based materials to bio-based materials. However, the BIOTEXFUTURE projects alone will not be able to bring about the systemic transformation that for example the German Ministry for Education and Research is striving to achieve. Such a transformation will need in particular research, policy makers and industry players.
Representatives of these three fields of expertise showed in a series of presentations and a panel discussion at the Spring 2022 Forum how they are already shaping or are planning to shape this future in a meaningful way. Central for both the German Ministry for Education and Research and the European Commission was a commitment to a sustainable and circular bioeconomy and collaboration across the board.
As a representative from the German Ministry of Education and Research Dr. Enrico Barsch presented the German Bioeconomy Strategy. He highlighted that Germany is aiming for a knowledge-based sustainable bioeconomy with modern biotechnology as a key success factor, which contributes to solving global challenges and not intensifying them. In particular this means supporting the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), creating novel cycles for the production of biogenic resources, reducing the use of fossil raw materials and operating within the planetary boundaries. All of these activities need to happen in parallel to fixing a clear and shared definition of a sustainable bioeconomy as in Germany a consensus on this is still missing.
Guidance for the latter endeavor comes from the European Commission in the form of the European Bioeconomy Strategy. The Head of the Sector Bioeconomy in DG Research and Innovation – Healthy Planet Bioeconomy & Food Systems at the European Commission Adrian Leip introduced this Bioeconomy Strategy, which is also contributing to the European Green Deal. Part of the strategy is the bioeconomy action plan, which consists of three priority action areas. First is strengthening and scaling-up bio-based sectors and unlocking investments and markets, second is a rapid deployment of bioeconomies across Europe and third is understanding the ecological boundaries of the bioeconomy.
Next to the Bioeconomy Strategy, the Communication on making sustainable products the norm in a more resilient single market, with the Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation at its heart, and the Strategy for Sustainable and Circular Textiles, are two additional instruments, influencing the design of textiles. In terms of the Textile Strategy, the EU envisions all textile products traded on the EU market to be durable, repairable and recyclable; to a great extent made of recycled fibers; free of hazardous substances and produced respecting social rights . Consequently, Adrian Leip emphasized the need to reinvent the textile industry to be smart, circular and competitive. Due to its legally binding nature for all EU countries the Ecodesign for Sustainable Products regulation will particularly impact the (bio-based) textile industry. Among others it includes performance and information requirements for greener products, a digital product passport and new labelling rules as well as stronger market surveillance .
Despite this policy push, we are currently still facing not that much of a market pull for bio-based products as Nicolas Hark from the nova-Institute pointed out. Nicolas Hark eventually summarized that policymakers need to sprint, whereas industry is in the middle of a marathon when it comes to a well and fast implementation of a bio-based textile value chain. In parallel research contributes its part in this run for a bio-based future by delivering new insights, technologies, processes, and products. So does BIOTEXFUTURE with its nine research projects (AlgaeTex, BioBase, BioCoat, BioTurf, CO2Tex, DegraTex, GOLD, PolyPFiber and TransitionLab). The projects presented the current status of their work ranging from research on algae-based materials and bio-based finishes and the overall societal bioeconomic transformation.
To make these research, policy, and industry efforts materialize the involved actors, however, need to know the stumbling blocks that lie ahead of them. Three members of the BIOTEXFUTURE Advisory Board namely Katrin Ley from Fashion for Good, Uday Gill from Indorama and Michael Carus from the nova-Institute reflected on these currently existing stumbling blocks and the tasks for the upcoming five to ten years based on their expert knowledge in the field. They identified the confusion of consumers and regulators with regards to bio-based textiles, the dominating reliance on fossil carbon as a material resource, the need to produce fibers without any difference in performance, the little collaborative efforts, and the lack of appropriate business models as major stumbling blocks. Thus, they concluded that in the upcoming decade we are in urgent need to loudly and clearly communicate to society, consumers/costumers, what problem will be solved with the bioeconomy and bio-based products. From an environmental perspective, a shift away from fossil-carbon-based and towards recycled and bio-based products is necessary. Furthermore, a phase of scaling up, brand commitment and price premiums needs to be initiated. And lastly, all of this can only be done in a collaborative multi-stakeholder effort.
With the Spring 2022 Forum policy makers have clearly shown in which direction the textile bioeconomy should head. The future bio-based textiles need to be sustainable, fully integrated into a circular system and perform on the same level as conventional textiles. Finally, research and industry have to find effective ways of enlightening and onboarding consumers and customers when it comes to bio-based textiles. BIOTEXFUTURE will continue working towards this future and will be back with the 6th Forum in Fall 2022 on October, 19th 2022 between 1 pm and 5 pm. Stay tuned with our Linkedin group and/or website.