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New report highlights federal bioeconomy policy considerations in R&D, regional promotion, and workforce development

September 29, 2022
By: Emily Chesser

On the heels of President Biden’s recent announcement of a Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing Initiative to boost the United States bioeconomy, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) has released The Bioeconomy: A Primer, which examines the future of the bioeconomy, explores the United States’ competitiveness in global bioeconomy efforts, and notes the current lack of federal coordination on building the bioeconomy. To address this lack of coordination, the report urges Congress to develop a more comprehensive national strategy for establishing the bioeconomy.   

According to the report, transitioning to a bioeconomy has many benefits like transitioning to renewable materials, creating new industries and jobs, and boosting rural development. However, switching to a bioeconomy also creates complex challenges in developing policy alignment, ensuring equal access to bioproducts, and gaining consumer demand. The report features eight policy considerations including a focus on R&D investments, the promotion of regional bioeconomy efforts, the development of a strong bioeconomy workforce, and the creation of a sustainable and circular economy.

The report finds that some aspects of bioeconomy implementation must take place at the regional level and should encourage involvement from rural communities to ensure continued access to biological resources. A few programs working towards this goal mentioned by the CRS include the Build to Scale program from the Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration (EDA), the Regional Innovation Clusters from the Small Business Administration (SBA), and the Rural Business Development Grant program from the Department of Agriculture (USDA). However, the CRS says it is unclear if these programs will be sufficient to support the transition to a bioeconomy.

The report says there is consensus that interdisciplinary training is necessary to build the skilled workforce needed in a strong bioeconomy. Additionally, the U.S. needs to increase STEM literacy to meet current demands. The CRS recommends further analysis of the current availability of a bioeconomy workforce to determine the need for federal investments in training and education.

The bioeconomy will cut across various industries, creating significant opportunities for economic growth and complex challenges for creating comprehensive and cohesive policies. The CRS stresses the importance of public-private partnerships in workforce development, research, and education to create a comprehensive strategy to develop the U.S. bioeconomy.  

Read the full Congressional Research Service report here.

bioeconomy, r&d, rural, workforce