Advancing a climate-smart bioeconomy through entrepreneurship

Through leveraging entrepreneurship, a climate-smart approach to agriculture education will be integrated into the curricula at sub-Saharan African universities, equipping graduates with tools to address climate change.

Text Varpu Somersalo Photo Harri Mattila 
Donkeys carrying large stacks of hay
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Teachers in Kenyan and Zambian partner HEIs participated in the introductory training session on climate-smart bio-entrepreneurship. The training was hosted by Dr Patrick Shulist, Assistant Professor of Sustainability in Business at Aalto University, and Dr Harri Mattila, Principal Research Scientist at Häme University of Applied Sciences.

Entrepreneurship is critical to advancing climate-smart bioeconomy approaches, especially the principles of circular economy. In the ideal circular bioeconomy, there would be no waste; instead, the residuals from one production stream would be utilised as raw material for another, or circulated back to soil. All side streams would be utilised, including human and animal faeces. The challenge of further advancing this circularity lies in its profitability, or lack of it.

“Entrepreneurship is the bridge between circular economy and cost-effective business. Circular economy can only be approached step by step, whenever someone finds a solution that is both pragmatic and profitable”, says Dr Shulist.

But what exactly is entrepreneurship? In the interactive training, it quickly became evident that everyone has have a different definition. The difference between livelihood and entrepreneurship was brought up among other debatable issues.

A sensible way of approaching the concept is to consider the typical elements of entrepreneurship. An entrepreneur usually needs to take risks, assemble their own resources, and have the right to the fruit of their work. One can act entrepreneurially even when they are working for an employer, and this is what PBL-BioAfrica is about: promoting innovativeness and encouraging graduates to take the lead in their own working lives, even if they weren’t to found an enterprise of their own.

Through collaboratively reforming the curricula and training teachers of agriculture and other fields of bioeconomy, climate-smart agriculture and entrepreneurship will be in the core of bioeconomy education. This will eventually lead to improved economic productivity locally and new tools to address climate change issues globally.

“Advancing circular bioeconomy is closely linked to future research”, Dr Mattila states. “We need to have an idea of our ideal future scenario and start take the steps that are needed in order to reach that. Future research is not about predicting the future; it is about making the future.”