NATURE+ launches circular bioeconomy hub in India to inspire, innovate and integrate nature-positive businesses

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CGIAR’s Nature-Positive Solutions Initiative, in collaboration with partner BAIF and other key stakeholders, established a Circular BioEconomy Innovation Hub (CBE-IH) in India. The hub is a collaborative space for researchers, innovators, financiers and scaling partners to transform circular bioeconomy ideas into products and services that benefit people and nature.

By Mansi Tripathi, Researcher, Resource Recovery and Reuse, International Water Management Institute (IWMI), India, Solomie Gebrezgabher, Senior Researcher, Economics, and co-lead of NATURE+, IWMI (Ghana), and Alok Sikka, Principal Researcher & NATURE+ Country Rep., IWMI, India

India is positioning itself to be a world leader in the field of circular economy. By 2050, the world’s most populous country aims to have a circular bioeconomy worth about USD $2 trillion that sustains 10 million jobs, as outlined in the National Circular Economy Framework.

India’s ambitious goals extend beyond its borders. In the hope of influencing and inspiring other nations, India recently launched the Global Biofuel Alliance with 19 countries and 12 international organizations. Recently India also hosted the G20 Research and Innovation Initiative Gathering (RIIG) that focused on circular bioeconomy with 100 delegates from the G20, nine other nations and international organizations.

India’s circular economy framework plans to tackle major issues related to energy reform and big-city waste management. It also aims to spur circularity in other sectors that produce waste, notably wastewater, domestic organic waste, and residues from the agricultural sector and rural areas. This is where CGIAR’s Nature-Positive Solutions Initiative (NATURE+) sees major potential, particularly where it aligns with the Initiative’s work to support circular economic activity to improve natural ecosystems, farm production, nutrition and livelihoods while ensuring water and food security and sustainable development.

Because research, collaboration and innovation will be critical to this transformation, NATURE+, the CGIAR Resilient Cities Initiative, and India’s BAIF Development Research Foundation (BAIF) recently inaugurated a Circular Bioeconomy Innovation Hub in India to support the country’s transition to a circular bioeconomy.

The hub brings together key stakeholders from the public and private sectors,  research and education sectors to foster the innovation ecosystem in the circular bioeconomy. It aims to support communities and entrepreneurs in transforming organic waste into biofuels, organic fertilizers and other value-added products.

The hub’s inauguration was well-received across relevant sectors.

“We see the innovation hub as a collective group of a variety of expertise in terms of finance, technology, social, policy, implementation, etc., all linked to finding meaningful solutions in circular bioeconomy,”  said Tushar Lowalkedar, a founder and CBO of BiofuleCircle, an online marketplace for biofuels based in Pune, India, where the hub was launched.

“We can come together to pilot models under different tracks of circular bioeconomy such as bioenergy track, biofertilizer track, and all partners contribute their expertise and resources to create, pilot and scale up such models on the ground,” Lowalkedar added.

NATURE+ prioritizes circularity as a response to the environmental impacts of population growth, rapid urbanization, ecosystem and biodiversity loss, and unsustainable food production. Because most of today’s economic practices are extractive and linear (as opposed to circular), it is imperative to adopt development models that are nature-positive, inclusive and sustainable for people and nature.

The web portal for the Circular Bioeconomy Innovation Hub in India, https://cbeihindia.com/.

The Hub Launch

The hub was launched on 14th December, 2023 at the Indian Council of Agricultural Research – National Institute of Abiotic Stress Management, Baramati (ICAR- NIASM) and had its first stakeholder meeting on 15th December, 2023. Currently a web-based platform, CBE-IH India (https://cbeihindia.com/) was virtually inaugurated by Dr. Himanshu Pathak, the Secretary Department of Agricultural Research and Education (DARE) & Director General (ICAR), Department of Agricultural Research and Education, GoI.

About CBE-IH India

Led by the IWMI and BAIF, the innovation hub is hosted by BAIF in Pune, a city in the western state of Maharashtra, India. The mission of CBE-IH India is to become a one-stop destination for circular bioeconomy in the country, facilitating knowledge sharing, guidance, and dialogues and discussions among key stakeholders.

The CBE-IH India website and launch by Dr. Himanshu Pathak, Secretary (DARE) & Director General (ICAR), GoI. Photo by Nishtha Paliwal/IWMI

The hub aims to connect various parties in CBE sector in India serving as a matchmaker between entrepreneurs and investors, startups and trainers/mentors, policymakers, stakeholders, researchers, donors and more. Through activities like training, accelerator programs, webinars and podcasts, the hub will foster collaboration among national and international research-for-development organizations, government research bodies, policymakers, NGOs, investors, donors, startups, and universities, among others.

The overarching objective is to unlock the potential of the circular bioeconomy sector in India, targeting agricultural and other bio wastes including wastewater and faecal sludge. Starting with the state of Maharashtra, the hub aspires to create a network of “living labs” and “acceleration centres” across India and beyond, accelerating the progress of circular bioeconomy-based businesses and enhancing the income and livelihood of farmers and creating new opportunities for communities.

Stakeholder engagement

A wide range of stakeholders participated in the hub launch event, including experts from research institutes, financial institutions, startups, incubation hubs and other like-minded people. The participants’ varied makeup was purposefully selected to guarantee that all areas of expertise and resources required for the initiative’s success would be covered. Each participant had the opportunity to demonstrate their skills and pledge their commitment to supporting the effort during the stakeholder meeting.

Key stakeholders in the first stakeholder meeting of the CBE-IH India

The conversation about how the Innovation Hub’s route should be developed within the Indian ecosystem was one of the meeting’s most important components. Collaborative brainstorming sessions were held by the participants to identify opportunities and challenges unique to the Indian setting.

Way Forward

The inauguration of the Innovation Hub and the stakeholder meeting provided a significant impetus for circular approaches in managing and creating value from agricultural and other biowastes. The event’s broad participation and commitment set a solid example for future collaborations.

As the hub grows, it is anticipated to play a vital role in promoting sustainable innovation and addressing the pressing  challenges facing the Indian economy due to wasteful and linear processes and practices. The participants demonstrated strong cooperation by committing to share knowledge, pool resources, and work together for shared impact.

IWMI and BAIF are leveraging their experience and expertise to develop a shared conceptual brief incorporating initial input from the stakeholders. Simultaneously, efforts are underway to expand primary and secondary networks to engage more diverse stakeholders. The year 2024 will include several in-field activities of the CBE-IH India, including the launch of its secretariat at Pune and the initiation and support of small and medium circular businesses.

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