Bioeconomy and the forest

Call for research proposals

This post is also available in Swedish

Appendices

  1. Background document “Bioeconomy and Digitalisation”
  2. Report from Mistra Workshop on the Bioeconomy
  3. Discontinuities and innovation-oriented challenges in the chain of bioeconomy
  4. Allowable costs and co-funding in Mistra projects
  5. Budget template

The Swedish Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research (Mistra) invites research groups, jointly with relevant stakeholders in the community, to submit proposals for a new research programme. The submitted proposals should address significant environmental problems faced by society, with an emphasis on developing long term solutions. The focus of this call is on the bioeconomy in particular in relation to efficient use of primary and secondary products from the forest sector.  The research should aim to bring about efficient use of resources over the entire life cycle and to foster ecologically, socially and economically sustainable development.

Background

Sweden has ambitious plans to be carbon dioxide neutral and independent from fossil based resources by the year 2045.

Any replacement for the fossil feedstocks will need to be renewable, easily accessible and competitive on a price level. The obvious and most easily available alternative is biomass, which is produced through harvesting energy from the sun and converting it into useful carbon based compounds. Viewing the situation today, the main source of biomass in Sweden is from the forestry sector, which will probably form the basis of a future Swedish bio-based economy. However, techniques developed to utilise biomass as a feedstock could be generic in nature allowing for the use of resources from outside the general scope of the programme.

Mistra, together with the Swedish Forest Industries Federation, organised a workshop “Swedish bioeconomy for global public benefits and strengthened national competitiveness” in October, 2016 (Appendix 2). An overview of the current state of research financing in Sweden and in relation to Europe was commissioned in early 2017 (Appendix 3).

background paper to present the potential and limitations of a research programme on the bioeconomy and digitalisation was prepared by an international expert group (Appendix 1). The combined output from these efforts are presented as a starting point for a call for research proposals after certain changes in emphasis in accordance with the prioritisations of Mistras board of trustees.

Focus

The research programme will focus on bioeconomy of the forest from both interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary perspectives. The programme will have an emphasis on technical developments ranging from new untested ideas to advanced concepts. One important goal is to contribute to the substitution of fossil raw materials for the production of materials, products and energy.  Technical readiness level (TRL) ranging from 2 to 7 are envisaged in the programme. Digitalisation throughout the value chain for forest-based products may be seen as a useful tool for the forestry sector.  The relevance and expected impact of the programme on the 17 United Nations sustainable development goals must be addressed.

The programme must contain the following research areas:

  1. New and traditional products from renewable feedstocks

Renewable resources will become increasingly important as society transitions away from fossil feedstocks. Research within the programme should address issues concerned with the production of products and services with high value. The processes involved in biorefining are central to creating greater value in the form of both traditional and new materials.

  1. Digitalisation of forest value chains from feedstock to products and services

The digitalisation of society is related to a combination of cyber-technical systems, the Internet of things (IoT), the Internet of services, direct Internet-based communication between humans, between humans and machines, and between machines (M2M). This is all highly pertinent in developing forest resources as an essential part of a future bioeconomy. The digitalisation perspective should cover value chains from the production of the biofeedstocks through biobased products and services to the recycling of materials at the stage deemed end of life. Traceability should be an important part of the approach.

  1. Circularity and sustainability

The renewable resources available to society are limited by the productivity capacity of the bio-sector in relation to land use. It will therefore become increasingly important to conserve materials within the current value chain and to re-use, re-manufacture and recycle as far as possible. This concept of circularity, which has already made major advances in some sectors, must be incorporated into the bioeconomy approach of the proposal, similarly, a broader perspective on sustainability should also be part of the programme.

* * *

The programme should be planned to take four years but have an eight-year perspective. It is expected to be interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary. It is very important to involve business and other partners right from the planning stage and onward throughout the whole research process. Sector and interest organisations may also be engaged with the programme. The programme is expected to contribute relevant knowledge and establish skills needed for an internationally competitive Swedish bioeconomy.

Dialogue, sharing of experience and, where relevant, collaboration among Mistra programmes are expected.

Who can apply?

This call addresses research groups in all academic disciplines working at Swedish higher education institutions, research institutes and companies, as well as purchasers in the business and public sectors and civil society. Researchers and organisations active outside Sweden may participate, but the principal applicant and planned programme host must be a Swedish organisation.

The host organisation and other organisations taking part are expected to be coordinated in a consortium and to submit a joint proposal.

Special conditions

  1. Co-funding at 30% of the total programme budget from stakeholders is required. The co-funder’s contribution may be partly in kind, such as staff involved to assist in the programme. The co-funding requirement is based on experience showing that commitment and integration in the programme are enhanced when more than one organisation contributes resources. The co-funding expected must be reported in the proposal and attested with a certificate from the planned programme host. Mistra favours further co-funding over and above the 30% requirement.
  2. Current rules concerning indirect costs: see Appendix 4.

Application process and review

The programme proposal must be written in English, except for a summary in Swedish. It should comprise the following parts and appendices, and must comply with the specified page limits. If the proposal exceeds any of the page limits it will not be processed. No other appendices other than those specified below may be attached.

The main part of the proposal (a maximum of 40 pages) must include the following parts:

Summary in English and Swedish

  1. Vision, aims and expected impact
  2. Scientific, including state-of-the-art, value of the programme
  3. Benefits of the programme to society
  4. Organisation of the programme
  5. Skills and networks
  6. Description of component projects
  7. Deliverables
  8. Communication
  9. Budget (use the budget template, Appendix 5).

The following appendices must be attached:

  1. CVs for up to 10 key people (maximum of one page per person)
  2. Certificate from planned programme host.

Note that the programme proposal must clearly specify the following: (a) preliminary programme title, (b) planned programme host, (c) planned programme director and (d) contact person for the proposal, with full contact details.

Although 40 is the maximum number of pages for the main part of the proposal, reaching this number is not a target as such. Writing concisely and readably is in every applicant’s interest. If approved, the proposal will serve as the basis of a programme plan to be used for programme implementation.

A certificate should be attached to the proposal confirming that the planned programme host (and also the main applicant) is prepared to assume the role of hosting the programme and to make the requisite resources available, and also accepts Mistra’s rules regarding indirect costs. The planned programme host must also certify that pledges on co-funding have been obtained and match the revenue budget reported. This certificate must be signed by the Vice-Chancellor, Chief Executive or equivalent (or the person appointed by the Vice-Chancellor or Chief Executive in his or her stead).

It should be noted that heading a Mistra programme is normally a full-time commitment and that every programme is expected to have a communicator. Read the section on managing Mistra programmes at www.mistra.org (under ‘About Mistra’),

Mistra intends to award research funding for one (1) of the programme proposals submitted. It is not possible to apply for funds for individual projects within the scope of this call.

Note that Mistra is subject to the principle of public access to official records. This means that all documents received by Mistra, including proposals, are public. On certain conditions, information may be treated as confidential.

The proposal should be sent as a single PDF file (including appendices) by email to: mail@mistra.org, to reach Mistra not later than Tuesday May 15, 2018 at 4:00 pm.

Evaluation criteria

All the proposals will be evaluated according to the following criteria, in which the potential for solving environmental problems and the expected contribution to sustainable development are crucially important:

  1. Approach, i.e. how far the programme has a central, coherent idea and an innovative direction, how well the aims are formulated and how well the anticipated impact is reported (including indicators).
  2. Scientific quality, i.e. how well the programme meets the high requirements in terms of skills, theoretical standards and methodological quality.
  1. Benefits, i.e. how well developed the collaboration with users of the research results is (and is expected to be) and which supportive communication processes and methods will be used to attain effective implementation.
  2. Management and organisation, i.e. the manner in which the programme will be integrated in the host organisation, how it will be governed and structured, and to what degree it will make efficient use of resources.
  3. Competitiveness, i.e. the ways in which the programme has the potential to help promote Sweden’s competitiveness and prosperity in a broad sense.

Time schedule

December 2017, Call opens
15 May 2018, Call closes
June – August 2018, Evaluation of proposals
September 2018, Award decisions taken by Mistra’s Board
November 2018, Programme start (preliminary)

Contact

Christopher Folkeson Welch, +46-(0)707-323074, chris.welch@mistra.org