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Key enabling technologies for the bioeconomy -A special look on the resource providers
As new technologies based on renewable raw materials and biological principles are becoming available, bioeconomic transformation could help to achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). However, bioeconomic transformation is not necessarily sustainable. To design effective enabling and regulatory governance frameworks for bio-based transformation, policy makers have to identify potentially game-changing future technologies and assess associated sustainability gains and risks. Drawing on the concept of key enabling technologies (KETs) put forward by the European Commission (EC) in 2009, this paper analyses KETs for the bioeconomy. Based on a forthcoming, international bioeconomy expert survey, perceived KETs and KET criteria for bioeconomic transformation have been explored. However, a systemic change towards a bio-based industry is only possible, if farmers adopt novel technologies. Their role is crucial in this transition, since they provide the obligatory resources. Therefore not only the providers of new technologies, companies and researchers, but also policy makers have to consider this group when launching bioeconomy strategies. Since only a few studies analyse farmers views and intentions toward single bioeconomy related technologies and even fewer consider more than one invention, we launched a Germany based survey investigating farmers perception on KETs and KET criteria using the technology acceptance model (TAM) as our analytical framework. The main purpose is to observe how farmers value new promising technologies and under which conditions they would adopt these. We chose the most prominent KETs from our previous study, and e.g. asked for genetic engineering, bio-based plastic, biorefineries, modern plant protection etc. Likewise, criteria as food security, yield increase, sustainability and circularity (waste reuse) have been mentioned quite frequently in the previous study and literature. Hence, these were chosen as items for the study at hand. We are additionally interested in a hypothetical bias concerning the technology preference and criteria choice: will famers´ prefer technologies/innovations that are directly associated with agriculture (and not synthetic biology, biotechnology etc.)? This will be related to personal norms and the affinity towards innovation, in addition to the TAM latent variables perceived usefulness, perceived ease of use, perceived net benefit, education level and farm size. The data will be generated by interviews using Likert scales and open questions and will be subsequently analysed with structural equation modelling (SEM). Our underlying hypotheses is that farmers tend to support new technologies depending on their general openness to innovation and their perceived benefits. Moreover, we hypothesize that farmers will decide about criteria and KETs according to their personal norms and perceived net benefits. In total, this study contributes not only in providing advice which new technologies to foster but also in elucidating relationships between the farmers’ general attitude and the perceived future of bio-based technology development. Thus, our study gives clues about the farmers’ perceptions of KETs and where and which farmers should be included in the innovation process as possible lead users. This may improve the acceptance of KETs in the bioeconomy value chain. Our results will thus offer a basis for future agricultural technology research, evaluation, politics, and management.