Societal Challenge 2

Food Security, Sustainable Agriculture and Forestry, Marine, Maritime and Inland Water Research and the Bioeconomy

The specific objective described in Horizon 2020 is to secure sufficient supplies of safe and high-quality food and other biobased products, by developing productive and resource-efficient primary production systems and fostering related ecosystem services, alongside competitive and low carbon supply chains.

Updated on a biannual basis, the Work Programme Societal Challenge 2 details the scope of research topics that are taken as a priority in the specific time frame and lists a number of Calls for Proposals. Following a competitive process, funding is granted to high-quality research projects submitted by pan-European research consortia formed by research organizations and universities in cooperation with the private and public sectors. 

Forest-based sector enabling a biobased society

The forest-based sector strives to become a key enabler of the future sustainable biobased society. Virtually all products it generates are based on renewable or recycled resources, thereby contributing to the European bioeconomy. The sector aims to provide yet more and greener products and services.

Sustainable management of forests will help to supply sufficient primary biomass for a variety of uses while maintaining functional and resilient ecosystems. Improved understanding and knowledge of forest ecosystems and innovation in forest management will contribute to better-integrated land management. Forests will improve their provision of wider societal benefits (including cultural and recreational values) and important ecological services like water regulation, erosion protection and carbon sequestration. New businesses will be developed to valorise the ecosystem services of forestry and non-wood forest products.

As global demand for biomass grows, interest will grow in species that are tailor-made for specific purposes such as fibre production, reassembly of larger solid wood items, energy production, or for being rich in particular chemical substances. Different management schemes will be developed respectively. Novel biorefinery concepts are able to provide completely new materials as substitutes for petroleum-based chemicals, polymers and fuels.

Increased use of wood will require the forest-based sector both to make more wood available to the market and increase the growth rate of forests. The visionary target is to increase the sustainable harvest of the valuable forest biomass by 30% by 2030. A secure, adapted and sustainable supply of forest-based raw material is a prerequisite for the further development of the bioeconomy. More precious biomass can also be supplied sustainably by integration along value chains from forest to end-product, shortening lead times, increasing capital turnover, improving profitability of forest ownership and reducing environmental impacts. Economic harvesting and fractionation methods will help industry select the right wood for the right use and thus improve efficiency of wood handling and processing.

Sorting and cleaning technologies will be developed to recycle used wood products. Biobased chemicals and resins will replace fossil-based substances not only in wood composites, and new biomass combinations will further improve the supply of lignocellulosic materials for various uses.

Wood- and fibre-based packaging materials and transportation pallets provide protection for products ranging from food and liquid to other consumer goods. Wood-based textile fibres such as viscose may, to a certain extent, replace cotton and thus enable additional areas of arable land to be used for food production.

At the same time, this will conserve scarce water supplies. The consumer need for safer food and the need to reduce waste will be met by advanced bio-based packaging materials, offering enhanced protection, reusability and recyclability.