Biotechnology and the bioeconomy are wide-spanning fields, intersecting multiple scientific disciplines. To ensure specialists, who are at the same time experts in their own fields, able to advance technology and applied research, and able to take a holistic view with an understanding of the different areas in the bioeconomy, a special education approach is needed. Within the trinational BIG-Cluster initiative, we develop new teaching approaches that target master’s students and doctoral students but also lifelong learning.
The BIG-Cluster Flagship Circular Economy Education
Within the BIG-Cluster initiative, education has been defined as a horizontal flagship. Recognising the importance of education in providing a skilled workforce for the future bioeconomy, CLIB has included the module BIG-Training in its BMBF-funded BIG-Cluster project, which will help implement cross-border training in the circular economy. In BIG-C’s regions of Flanders, The Netherlands, and NRW, various and diverse technical, academic, and post-academic training activities already exist at a regional level. BIG-Training aims to establish BIG-C-wide coordinated education and training structures. In doing so, it will build on already-existing regional activities and develop new models to fill existing gaps. It will be important to align the region’s activities and intensify the exchange of participants, training topics, and education concepts.
In 2016, BIG-Cluster organised workshops to identify current needs and possible activities for the first cross-border education project. In April 2016, the BIG-Cluster Education Working group investigated the needs of companies when training future employees in the bioeconomy through a survey used to create a target-oriented BIG-Cluster education programme. The main focus has been on academic education, but the survey also dealt with different education levels to get a broader overview. The survey was divided into three parts: bioeconomy knowledge, learnable skills, and personal qualities. We identified that there is a need for better education in entrepreneurship and interdisciplinarity. A dedicated student business plan competition will be the ultimate tool to deal with these three challenges. The global Biobased Business Competition - short G-BiB - will focus on the development of a business plan for biorenewable chemicals, materials, and fuels. The first round was launched in November 2016. The aim is to focus on the practical application of entrepreneurship and interdisciplinarity as well as the transfer of learning. In the coming years, the second activity of the BIG-Cluster Training working group is a massive open online course (MOOC) for higher education on the concept of a bio-based economy.
Within “Aromatics and Fine Chemicals from Woody Biomass,” the goal is to fractionate and convert lignocellulosic biomass into bio-based aromatics.
Currently, industrial gases containing CO and CO2 produced by, for example, steel mills are among the most relevant industrial side streams. These gases can be converted biotechnologically into a wide variety of molecules.