FOstering Entrepreneurship for the BioEconomy


Unibo structure involved: Department of Agricultural and Food Sciences - DISTAL
Scientific manager: Rino Ghelfi
Unibo Team: Davide Viaggi, Silvia Russo, Parthena Chatznikolaou

Erasmus+ Action type: Cooperation for innovation and the exchange of good practices Strategic Partnerships for higher education
Project reference: 2020-1-FR01-KA203-080557
Start Date: 1 September 2020
End Date: 31 August 2023
Total: € 427,294  UNIBO: € 51,484 



Bioeconomy is a key strategy for the European Union, whose thorough deployment is a prerequisite for the success of the Green Deal. This new, systemic approach, which includes different economic sectors and is based on circularity and sustainability principles requires a paradigm shift in both training curricula and pedagogical practices to equip young professionals with sustainable entrepreneurship skills. Those will be instrumental to the advent of the bioeconomy as novel, out-of-the-box environmental-friendly and economically sound solutions are needed.

Current entrepreneurship training programmes are not tailored to the needs of the bioeconomy sector, which hampers its development potential. Furthermore, there is a lack of an European approach in this respect, despite bioeconomy appearing high on the policy agenda. Also, jointly developing contents at EU level would enable students (ie, entrepreneurs to be) to have a vision encompassing all dimensions of the bioeconomy in such context.
FOEBE aims at tackling this skills mismatch and becoming a game-changer for the bioeconomy education in Europe. Its overarching objective consists of equipping bioeconomy students at Master’s and PhD levels with tailor-made sustainable entrepreneurship skills. Seven excellent higher education institutions, fully active and recognized under the umbrella of the EBU (European Bioeconomy University) decided to join forces to provide the best possible training curricula to graduate students. This strategic partnership proposal builds on their expertise, resources and know-how to offer the most relevant add-on courses to would-be bioeconomy entrepreneurs. FOEBE partners have strong links to the bioeconomy industry and their innovation ecosystems, in particular through national clusters, 2 of which appear as associated partners in this project.
The general approach of FOEBE revolves around a blended learning format which combines e-learning and face-to-face sessions, with an emphasis on innovative pedagogical practices. FOEBE will offer a suite of modules that students enrolled in bioeconomy Master’s or PhD programmes can attend as extra or elective courses. This results in an “enhanced curriculum” whose add-on modules are flexible enough to be compatible with the graduate curricula currently offered in European HEIs.
Project activities include first the design of skills portfolios and curricula for entrepreneurship in the bioeconomy, based on an initial survey of bioeconomy industrial players to define the desired qualification and competence profiles. Innovative teaching practices (i.e. hackathon, student competition, non-formal education learning activities, contextual learning) will be shared in order to work out the possible options to apply for entrepreneurship in the bioeconomy.
A digital learning platform will be set up to support the development of courses and training materials, building on the partners’ expertise. The resulting add-on module will be tested with two successive cohorts of Master’s and PhD students from partner HEIs. Based on the experience gained in this process, guidelines will be drafted on innovative teaching formats to foster entrepreneurship through training. The progress of students enrolled in the FOEBE modules will be closely monitored and assessed, and learners’ feedback will be used to improve the content of courses and the pedagogical approaches.
In line with its core concepts and objectives, FOEBE will deliver the pedagogical resources, add-on modules and innovative teaching practices necessary to foster the entrepreneurial mindset of bioeconomy students across a range of graduate training programmes and university contexts. The final output of the project will consist of guidelines and recommendations on how to best equip bioeconomy graduate students with the skill set relevant to this area, and put them in a position to become innovators and bring their ideas to the market. This report will enable other universities to design their own implementation of the FOEBE add-on curricula and offer them to their graduate students, thereby enriching their academic programmes.
Impacts will thus occur for different target groups: graduate students enrolled in bioeconomy-related programmes, professors/teaching communities in HEIs active in the bioeconomy field, and the bioeconomy sector and industry in general. In the long run, developing entrepreneurship in the bioeconomy is especially relevant since it is an emerging sector involving cutting-edge science and technology paradigms. It presents a large potential for innovations and transfer to the market of novel concepts around sustainability and circularity principles. By contributing a flexible and optimal approach to bioeconomy entrepreneurship training, FOEBE is expected to leverage the potential of graduate students to innovate and foster the transfer of their ideas to the market.