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Document 52017AE1752

Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on the ‘Proposal for a Council Regulation amending Council Regulation (EU) No 560/2014 of 6 May 2014 establishing the “Bio-based Industries”Joint Undertaking’ [COM(2017) 68 final — 2017/0024 (NLE)]

OJ C 246, 28.7.2017, p. 18–21 (BG, ES, CS, DA, DE, ET, EL, EN, FR, HR, IT, LV, LT, HU, MT, NL, PL, PT, RO, SK, SL, FI, SV)



Official Journal of the European Union

C 246/18

Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on the ‘Proposal for a Council Regulation amending Council Regulation (EU) No 560/2014 of 6 May 2014 establishing the “Bio-based Industries”Joint Undertaking’

[COM(2017) 68 final — 2017/0024 (NLE)]

(2017/C 246/03)




Council, 21.3.2017

Legal basis

Articles 187 and 188 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union

Section responsible

Single Market, Production and Consumption

Bureau decision


Adopted at plenary


Plenary session No


Outcome of vote



1.   Conclusions and recommendations


The EESC considers that this proposal to amend the regulation seeks to improve the provisions of the Council regulation and to streamline them towards the objectives of the Bio-Based Industries Joint Undertaking (BBI JU). This proposal is consistent with the initial objectives and with existing policy provisions.


The EESC believes that the BBI JU seeks to develop synergies with other EU programmes such as cohesion policy, education, the environment, SMEs, competitiveness, and rural development policy, strengthening regional and national research and innovation capabilities in the current context of smart specialisation strategies and policies.


The European Commission has constant operational exchanges with the Bio-based Industries Consortium (BIC), and has had multiple rounds of consultations and discussions on the mode of delivery of the financial contribution by BIC members. This proposal has no additional impact other than the one expected to be achieved by the original Council regulation itself; as this is only a technical amendment, no impact assessment is required for this initiative.


The EESC welcomes the fact that the proposal reduces the administrative burden on BIC as far as its intermediary role between BIC members, who are obliged to make financial contributions, and project participants is concerned. BIC will remain ultimately responsible for reporting the aggregate number of financial contributions by its members.


The EESC endorses the essential clarifications established by the new regulation:

delivering financial contributions will be possible in two modes: by transferring them from BIC to the BBI JU (as before) and/or by transferring them directly from a BIC member to another project beneficiary;

extending the parties that can deliver the financial contribution (constituent entities of BIC);

maintaining the commitment to the overall financial target;

allowing BIC members to report the financial contributions delivered by them at project level.

2.   General comments


The EESC considers the concept of bio-based industries to be part of the broader bioeconomy, which is defined as the production and extraction of renewable biological resources and their conversion into products based on biological elements, such as food, feed and bioenergy. Three-quarters of the EU’s arable land is used for this purpose, and between 17 and 19 million Europeans are employed in this economic sector, which has a turnover of EUR 2 trillion. The knowledge-based bioeconomy was estimated to have an annual turnover of EUR 57 billion and employ about 305 000 people in 2009.


For Europe, the bioeconomy can generate growth and added value and create secure and decent jobs; it can substantially reduce our dependency on imports, and optimise the rational use of finite but renewable biological resources, while making a substantial contribution to global trade.


The bioeconomy is also considered to create competition between the uses of biological resources and technologies at various levels. This is further exacerbated by the limited availability of biological resources. On the one hand, the bioeconomy could make a significant contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which could improve public health. On the other hand, it could have an adverse effect, and trigger new greenhouse gas emissions, the impact of which on the environment cannot be overlooked.


The EU policy framework for the bioeconomy is spread across a number of policies: agriculture, fisheries, forestry, climate, the circular economy and research; these policy areas are covered by a number of legislative acts and sectoral policies (1).


However, since 2012, an overarching bioeconomy strategy has aimed to ensure policy coherence. Some inconsistencies remain nonetheless. The EU provides funding to innovative bioeconomy activities through the Horizon 2020 framework programme for research and a range of other instruments. The EESC considers that there is a need for sustainability and policy coherence in this area.


The importance of considering a public-private partnership for the bio-based industries as a joint technology initiative has been underlined in a number of Commission communications (2).


The legal basis of this proposal lies in Articles 187 and 188 of the TFEU. Only the EU is able to modify the legal framework of a Joint Undertaking, as Member States are unable to act alone. The purpose of this proposal is to adjust the provisions of the Council regulation so as to provide BIC members with the practical possibility to fulfil their obligation to deliver the financial contribution. The proposal complies with the proportionality principle. The amendment was also necessary because the Council regulation could not be interpreted to enable the delivery of the financial contribution at project level.

3.   Specific comments


In 2012, the European Commission adopted a bioeconomy strategy building on the EU framework programme for research. The strategy aims to ensure policy coherence between the various relevant policies and their goals, both at EU and national levels. This approach was also considered necessary in order to increase public funding and private investment related to the bioeconomy. Participatory governance models were established. The strategy lays down an action plan containing 12 measures grouped in three themes:

investment in research, innovation and skills;

reinforced policy interaction and stakeholder engagement; and

enhancement of markets and competitiveness in the bioeconomy.


The strategy’s measures were aimed at setting up a bioeconomy stakeholders panel and a bioeconomy observatory, promoting new markets by developing standards, including as regards sustainability, and providing the knowledge base for sustainable intensification of primary production. A review and update of this strategy is expected in 2017.


The Commission proposal contains a technical amendment to the existing document, Council Regulation (EU) No 560/2014 establishing the Bio-based Industries Joint Undertaking (BBI JU).


The BBI JU is a body entrusted with the implementation of a public-private partnership, whose members are the EU, represented by the Commission, and the Bio-based Industries Consortium (BIC). The BBI JU was established for the implementation of the Joint Technology Initiative on Bio-based Industries, until 31 December 2024.


Given the difficulties encountered by BIC in delivering its financial contribution in the mode envisaged by the Council regulation, it is proposed to introduce the possibility of delivering financial contributions at project level, in addition to the existing mode of delivery at programme level. This solution addresses the situation effectively and works towards achieving the initial objectives of the Council regulation by allowing BIC members to comply with their initial commitment. This solution is similar to the one used for IMI 2 JU (Innovative Medicines Initiative 2 Joint Undertaking), where members other than the Union can make financial contributions both at programme level, which is commonly done by trusts and charities, and at project level, which is the mode used by commercial entities. This amendment is not part of the REFIT programme.


The aim of the Bio-Based Industries Joint Undertaking is to implement a public-private partnership, which comprises, on the one hand, the EU, represented by the Commission, and on the other hand, the Bio-based Industries Consortium (BIC), established by Council Regulation (EU) No 560/2014. The purpose of this partnership is to implement the Joint Technology Initiative on Bio-based Industries in accordance with the statutes of the joint undertaking, by 31 December 2024.


Article 3 of the Council regulation sets out the specific contributions of each member of the Joint Undertaking to the administrative and operational costs, which are set out separately and to which is added an unspecified amount consisting of in-kind contributions for implementing indirect actions (IKOP), as well in-kind contributions for implementing additional activities (IKAA). It stems from reading the statutes that this contribution from BIC should be entered to the BBI JU’s budget at programme level. Constituent entities of the members other than the Union, which are the ones who participate in implementation of indirect funded actions, should provide financial contributions directly to the indirect actions at project level.


Many BIC members have encountered difficulties with the means of payment. Making a financial contribution at programme level is considered commercially unviable, because it does not offer any guaranteed benefit in exchange, particularly as regards the results of the projects and related intellectual property rights, and because making contributions at programme level could lead to one BIC member delivering that contribution to its own competitors. An alternative mode for delivering the financial contribution has been proposed, paying at project level — which means that the participants that contribute financially benefit from the results of the project — and this mode does not affect the interests of the EU. The desire here is to pursue the interests of the bio-based value chains, including SMEs, research and technology centres and universities.


Financial contributions by the members other than the Union comply with the following requirements:

the financial contribution at programme level is unique to the BBI JU;

BBI JU’s current model is adequate for enhancing cooperation with trusts and charities;

the legal framework of the BBI JU should be adjusted to facilitate collaboration with commercial companies.


In line with this proposal, BIC members have the possibility to continue delivering financial contributions at programme level. In addition to this, they will have the possibility to transfer the financial contribution directly to another participant in the project, in accordance with the rules mutually agreed upon (the consortium agreement), the applicable legal framework (financial transfer from BIC members to BIC) and (financial transfers from BIC members to project beneficiaries) their national legislation and usual accounting practices. BIC will be responsible for reporting the aggregate number of financial contributions received.


The BBI JU model grant agreement will be amended accordingly. This proposal for amendment has no consequences for the protection of fundamental rights and no budgetary implications. A budget cut would affect academia and the relevant SMEs, as the contribution from the EU is mainly set aside for research and innovation activities.


The amendment is binding in all its elements and is directly applicable in each Member State. No explanatory document is required.

Brussels, 27 April 2017.

The President of the European Economic and Social Committee

Georges DASSIS

(1)  CAP — the Common Agricultural Policy, EU Forest Strategy, CFP — the Common Fisheries Policy, the Europe 2020 strategy, EU action plan for the circular economy, 50 EU Research Area Networks and three Joint Programming Initiatives.

(2)  COM(2012) 60 final: ‘Innovating for Sustainable Growth: A Bioeconomy for Europe; COM(2014) 14 final: For a European Industrial Renaissance; COM(2013) 494 final: Public-private partnerships, in Horizon 2020: a powerful tool to deliver on innovation and growth in Europe; COM(2012) 79 final: European Innovation Partnership — Agricultural Productivity and Sustainability’.