Combining economy and ecology

We have been living beyond our means for quite a while. The use of natural resources such as water, soil or raw materials exceeds the earth's ability for regeneration. The growing world population, climate change and the decline in biodiversity are leading to an ever-faster downward spiral: It is high time for fundamental change. The bioeconomy aims to harmonize the economy and ecology through bio-based production, working and living concepts.


Scientists at the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft explore biological systems and combine their findings with imaginative technologies to develop pioneering innovations for a sustainable economy. By working to replace fossil fuels with renewable ones and to recycle plastics, they aim to halt the increasing pollution of soils and oceans. They also design mobility and energy solutions on the model of resilient ecosystems, develop biopharmaceuticals for the treatment of cancer and autoimmune diseases and replace animal experiments with intelligent, cell-based test systems. Their research makes it possible to effectively control pests in agriculture without endangering other species, to use wastewater for vegetable cultivation and much more.

Since the bioeconomy has the potential for sustainable solutions that conserve resources and create prosperity at the same time, Fraunhofer researchers are active in many different fields:


A balanced diet plays a key role in our health. But what is the most sustainable way to produce nutritional foods – particularly when there is less and less land and a growing global population? The bioeconomy offers numerous opportunities, including the exploitation of new climate-friendly sources of protein and the production of valuable dietary supplements made from macroalgae, which thrive without fertilizer, freshwater and energy.

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Artificial fertilizers, chemical-based pesticides and the increased use of machines and technical processes have significantly boosted agricultural yields over the decades. While it took one farmer to feed ten people after World War II, the yield of one farmer can now supply 135 people, a transition that has more than left its mark on the ecosystem. Biodiversity is on the decline, pesticide residues in food and water are a major problem, and the ecological balance has been destroyed. Fraunhofer researchers are working on making agriculture more sustainable.

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New materials

In what way can new materials be developed that are just as good as existing ones, but can be sustainably produced and disposed of? The bioeconomy offers plenty of potential here. For example, researchers are working on reusable and compostable packaging and natural materials that could replace carbon fibers.

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Extracting medicines from plants and microorganisms is nothing new – one prominent example is insulin. But there is still much more potential to be exploited: for example, modern biotechnology offers efficient treatment options for antibiotic-resistant bacteria. It is impossible to imagine therapy for illnesses such as cancer and autoimmune diseases without biopharmaceuticals. Living microorganisms and cells are used as “mini factories” for the production of active ingredients.

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Humans and animals require a healthy environment. But things look much different in reality: plastic waste is polluting the oceans and killing animals, while climate change with its scorching summers in recent years has brought about prolonged drought and devastating fires. The aim of the bioeconomy is to help protect the environment and promote a sustainable economy, by replacing petroleum, for example in the chemical industry, responding to water scarcity and recycling plastics over and over again rather than throwing them away.

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Fossil fuels are increasingly being replaced with renewable energies, which are energies sourced from wind, sun and biomass, in a desperate attempt to achieve climate goals. But wind and solar energy is inconsistent and tends to fluctuate, making solutions for exploiting excess energy a must. In addition to sun and wind, biomass is also an important pillar in the energy mix of the future.

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Fraunhofer magazine 1/2020

Green gains

Sustainability – the tie that binds ecology and the economy closer together


Web special

Biological Transformation

Biological Transformation means nothing less than the increasing application of materials, structures and principles of living nature in technology and management with the goal of sustainable value creation.

Contact Press / Media

Dr. Markus Wolperdinger

Spokesman Fraunhofer Strategic Research Field Bioeconomy

Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB
Nobelstr. 12
70569 Stuttgart, Germany

Phone +49 711 970-4410

Contact Press / Media

Spokesman Fraunhofer Strategic Research Field Bioeconomy

Contact Press / Media

Prof. Dr. Andrea Büttner

Deputy Spokeswoman Fraunhofer Strategic Research Field Bioeconomy

Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging IVV
Giggenhauser Straße 35
85354  Freising, Germany

Phone +49 8161 491-100