The Bioeconomy in figures: the case of Europe

In 2017, nova-Institute conducted for the first time a study about the turnover and employment of the European bioeconomy for the years 2008-2017 on behalf of the Bio-based Industries Consortium (BIC). The analysis, which used Eurostat as the primary data source, showed for the first time which macroeconomic effects are generated by these activities, e.g. turnover and employment for the years 2008 and 2013.

Turnover by market application

The analysis of the Eurostat data of 2017 showed that the turnover of the total bioeconomy, including food and beverages and the primary sectors agriculture and forestry, resulted in just over 2.4 trillion Euro in the EU-28, meaning an increase by 25% since 2008. Roughly half of the turnover is accounted for by the food and beverages sector, almost 20% is created by the primary sectors agriculture and forestry. The remaining 30% are contributed by the so-called bio-based industries, such as chemicals and plastics, pharmaceuticals, paper and paper products, forest-based industries, textiles, biofuels and bioenergy.


Since 2008 the employment in the EU-bioeconomy has dropped by 9% from once over 20 million people in 2008 to 18.5 million in 2017. This is mostly due to the ongoing restructuring of the agricultural sector, which led to the loss of 2.2 million employees in the EU-28 between 2008 and 2017. However, the primary biomass production sector, mainly agriculture plus forestry and fishery is still considered the main driver of employment, generating 55% of work in 2017. The turnover of this sector tends to be rather low, though.

As in the 2017 study and all its followers, the study highlighted the contribution of the often- underrated bio-based industries, such as chemicals and plastics, pharmaceuticals, paper and paper products, forest-based industries, textile sector, biofuels and bioenergy to the bioeconomy. During the examined time period, this sector increased its turnover by 23% from once 600 million Euro in 2008 to about 750 million Euro in 2017. At the same time employment figures of the bio-based industry declined by 4% to 3.6 million employees in the EU-28 in 2017. In the bio-based chemical and plastics industry alone, turnover amounted to around 60 billion Euro and generated over 180.000 jobs, while the bio-based share of the chemical industry in the EU-28 increased from about 5% in 2008 to 8% in 2017.

Bio-based sectors across Member States

Furthermore, the data show clear differences between groups of Member States: For example, the Eastern European countries Poland, Romania and Bulgaria are apparently stronger in less value- adding sectors of the bio-based economy that generate a lot of employment. In comparison, Western and Northern European countries generate much higher turnover compared to the employment generated.

The countries with the highest ratio between turnover and employment are Finland, Belgium and Sweden.

Download the full report here.