The rapidly increasing demand for sustainable production of biomass and of security of food and feed availability as well as increasing demands for non-fossil alternatives for chemicals, materials and energy provide the basis for the globally developing field of bioeconomy. The growing world population will require 75% more biomass for food purposes without significant options to increase arable land. Demands for bio-based renewable resources for chemicals and materials and the request for sustainable bioenergy sources ask for more biomass and smart processing for novel and resource-efficient products. The revolutionary developments in life sciences in recent decades form the basis for innovative approaches.
Within the Bioeconomy concept, plant sciences and biotechnology are key technologies to master the challenges for a future bioeconomy promising sustainable use and valorization of knowledge about biological systems and resources. Plants have to be produced as sustainably as possible and shall use as little water, nutrients and land as necessary. In addition, they have to be adapted to the climate change, developed for healthier foods and adapted to alternative utilisations. The diversity of microbial systems shall be used to develop microbes and processes for innovative cell factories generating valuable compounds from renewables. This requires analysis and engineering of metabolism, its regulation and signal transduction based on systemic understanding of microbial cells.
Beyond this programme, researchers of different Helmholtz-programmes are working together in the joint cross-programme initiative Sustainable Bioeconomy. They examine issues like, industrial conversion for energetic and material usage or environmental influences. Furthermore, they are working together to develop processes for the reduction of the ecological footprint. The programme Key Technologies for Bioeconomy—as core of this cross-programme initiative—has the task to improve the potential of the most important biological systems, plants and microbes, to target bioeconomy challenges.