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Playing with the complexity of the bioeconomy

04 Dec 2015

The extraction of resources from biomass is more than simply a technical issue. Political, economic, and logistical concerns also play a part. BioConSepT Serious Game allows stakeholders and interested parties to gain greater insight into the different approaches to and complexities of bioeconomy through role play.

High energy products such as wood, straw, and sugar can serve as a replacement for oil in a refined form. In other words, it is 'plastic from plants.’ This phrase serves as the sub-heading of the European project ‘BioConSepT,’ coordinated by TNO, where thirty European parties exchange ideas about the technical and economic viability of bioplastics. This is an important exploration. While Europe is a leader in terms of knowledge, it has trailed the rest of the world in terms of biomass availability due to the continent's high population density. Dick Verdoes from TNO elaborates, ‘There are sufficient material flows in place to establish a biobased economy. Wood especially is a highly resourceful biomass as it consists of 50% cellulose and does not serve as a food source. Moreover, in Scandinavia there is sufficient space for sustainable forestry while Eastern Europe has great potential for waste streams. However, these parties need to work together if they want to make progress. Governments have to decide what to tax and what to reward.’

Participants playing with the Serious game BioEconomy

Serious game BioEconomy

To assist strategy development in terms of the complexity of a bioeconomy, Tygron and TNO have created the serious game ‘BioEconomy’ within BioConSepT. The Dutch company Tygron is a relatively newcomer that specializes in serious games for complex themes that have multiple stakeholders and where individual and collective interests play an important part. In a virtual reality, players must shift a fossil fuel-based economy towards a bioeconomy. Players can choose between the roles of governments or industry. Through these methods players learn to understand the consequences of their actions. Project coordinator Verdoes further expounds, “You can look at this game as a type of SimCity for the bioeconomy. Every decision that a player makes is immediately calculated and applied to the virtual world.’

Real contact

The game was officially launched at the EFIB (The European Forum for Industrial Biotechnology) in Brussels and Verdoes has been happy with the initial reactions. ‘Participants sit behind a laptop and have access to the same virtual world. Initially, they would communicate with one another using the screen. However, we saw that people were getting up and communicating with each other in real life. Those playing the role of industry were entering into real life negotiations about subsidies with participants playing the role of government.

Actual data

TNO and Tygron will be further developing and utilizing the serious game. The plan is to create a version of the game that works with actual geographical data. This would make the game a perfect tool in decision-making processes in specific regions. Verdoes explains: ‘It is difficult to remove yourself from the seriousness of politics and technology when gathered around a formal conference table. A serious game allows people to enter into a different state of mind. While it is fun to play a game, people still want to win. It is just a game but the message of the game remains of the utmost importance. We have identified that this game can serve as a wonderful catalyst for promoting conversation around the conference table.’

Are you interested in playing the BioEconomy Serious Game or to support its development? Then please contact Dirk Verdoes.

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