The Bio Base NWE project

Boosting the potential of bio-based start-ups in North-West Europe

The challenge

One of the main priorities of Europe is the replacement of an economy based on fossil resources by an economy based on renewable energy: The bio-based economy. Therefore, Europe encourages the creation of sustainable companies that can contribute to lowering the carbon footprint, reducing greenhouse emissions and fighting global warming.

However, many new, small, innovative companies face the same problem: The “Valley of Death” between the laboratory and the market. To find the commercial application of their idea, they need funding, which requires investors. However, to convince investors, they first need to test their idea on an industrial scale using industrial equipment that is too expensive for a small, start-up company.

Bio Base NWE is the winner of the RegioStars Awards 2017 under category 1: “Smart specialisation for SME innovation”

The project in brief

The Bio Base NWE project supported small and medium-sized enterprises that wanted to innovate according to the principles of the bio-based economy.

To help SMEs get their innovations to the market, a five-country partnership of bio-innovation agents created a toolbox of resources which included:

  • A pilot plant facility to test the companies’ concept using industrial equipment, so they did not need to invest in expensive technology.
  • A coupon system (maximum €30 000 per coupon) to remove the financial bottlenecks that companies face when preparing a product for the market. 
  • A Transnational Network of Bio-Innovation Agents to support and advise SMEs active in bioeconomy innovation.
  • Training tools such as e-learning platforms, train-the-trainer sessions and networking events which tackled the shortage of skilled bio-based economy professionals in North West Europe.
  • Policy recommendations addressed to regional and European policy makers, that were created after identifying obstacles that companies encountered during their innovation track.

The impact

The activities undertaken by Bio Base NWE had strong leverage effects for the bio-based companies involved, resulting in new investments and jobs. By the end of the project:

  • 17 SMEs signed contracts or were negotiating with investors;
  • 5 companies signed contracts with customers and 4 bio-based products were already commercialised;
  • 16 SMEs reported to have concrete plans to build a dedicated line for further development or a new production, attracting a total investment of over €71 million to their regions and cities;
  • 43 jobs were created and an estimated 275 new jobs will be created in the coming years.

One example to illustrate: the Scottish SME Celtic Renewables tested its innovative process to produce biobutanol from the waste produced in the whisky industry at the Bio Base Europe Pilot Plant in 2014. This assessment enabled Celtic Renewables to gather a next round of investments worth €1.5 million. In addition, in 2015, Celtic Renewables landed an £11 million grant after winning a competition run by the UK Department for Transport to build the world’s first plant dedicated to the production of advanced biofuel from the residues of the whisky industry. The company also received many innovation awards. 

Moreover, the project Bio Base NWE was the basis for six new European projects and inspired several projects in other sectors.

Regio Stars Awards Winner

Bio Base NWE is the winner of the RegioStars Awards 2017 under category 1: “Smart specialisation for SME innovation”. The winners were announced during the RegioStars Award Ceremony on the 10th of October 2017 in Brussels during the European Week of Regions and Cities.


companies negotiating with investors


of leverage attracted to regions and cities


Jobs created

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