The co-creation phase at the Polish Hub is now coming to an end. Over a period of nine months – from July 2018 to March 2019, we planned five workshops dealing with the broad context of designing communications about the bioeconomy. Participants included representatives of academic and non-academic research institutes, the members and directors of two clusters: LifeScience and CleanTech Polska, representatives of the Marshal’s Office of the Małopolska Region, representatives of public institutions providing support for research and development, employees of agricultural advisory bodies, representatives of foundations and associations promoting and supporting sustainable food production and consumption as well as of associations devoted to sustainable development, of economic entities active on markets for foodstuffs, wooden craft products, products for the agricultural sector, sewage treatment solutions, services for ecological agriculture and bioplastics. It is also worth noting that representatives of the identified target groups took part and that members of the scientific community involved in propagating scientific innovations are expected to take part in the workshops planned to be held in March.
Workshop activities were based on the following model:
During the workshops, in addition to achieving the specified goals, a great deal of important information was gathered about the state of the bioeconomy in Małopolska. Factors giving reason for concern included the low level of awareness of entities active in the bioeconomy sector and an incorrect understanding of the concept itself, as well as sometimes negative associations arising in relation to the definition of bioeconomy, something that was revealed in particular in contacts with business. Conditions imposed by institutions, in particular with reference to the waste management, also turned out to be a significant problem, which means that changes are nevertheless still necessary at a central administrative level.
In Małopolska, a growing interest can however be seen in the topic of the bioeconomy. Proof of this is available in the form of the pan-European Vanguard Initiative project being conducted in partnership with the BLOOM project, which represents a step towards the creation of a regional network of smart specializations, including in bioeconomy in particular. The level of attendance and interest in the co-creation workshops held to date has also been a pleasant surprise. Representatives of NGOs and entities involved in sustainable food production underline the growth in interest in the quality of food, and the region has an expanding network of direct sales, with local markets and those specializing in ecological products doing increasingly well. This, in combination with the specific conditions existing in the region, means that food appears to be a product of strategic importance in the bioeconomy in Małopolska. Entities involved in sewage treatment and municipal waterworks are also very interested in the topic and actively looking for solutions based on the bioeconomy, both with regard to biological methods of sewage treatment and the use of sewage sludge. Another noteworthy development is the research being conducted and the first attempts at deployment in the area of the production of biopolymers from both fresh and used edible oils. Using specific strains of bacteria, it is possible to produce fully biodegradable plastic from such oils. Fresh oil can be used to produce elements which have applications in medicine – in cardiology, neurosurgery and other fields.
Amongst other things, the co-creation workshops made it possible to determine the areas and content which are of particular importance for future communications – these are first and foremost topics related to food in the context of its quality, understanding of its significance and content relating to certification and food safety, as well as issues relating to waste – management of waste and possibilities of re-use.
The most important target groups for communications were also identified. Based on demographic characteristics, the most important group is: women aged 25 and over, with their own family or in a relationship, who have the main responsibility for shopping decisions, and who thus have an influence on the model of consumption adopted in the household. Participants in the workshops also singled out a group consisting of young, conscientious, educated people, who are aware of economic, social and environmental changes, and are thus looking for further information and are ready to become involved in change and in promoting values related to sustainable consumption and production. Two professional (institutional) groups were also identified: representatives of the public authorities and farmers.
The final component, namely specific, detailed communications formats designed specially to meet the needs, available time slots and readiness for engagement of the individual target groups is still to be worked on at the forthcoming workshops in March. In contrast to those held to date, the forthcoming workshops will be held at the Copernicus Science Centre in Warsaw, in which members of the scientific community involved in propagating scientific innovations and promoting knowledge will be invited to take part, who will propose customized solutions which will take account of the results of previous work carried out by representatives of the quadruple helix.