On Tuesday, August 8th, 2023, the project “Law for the Promotion of the Bioeconomy” was presented, under file No. 23868, which seeks to promote this activity, understood as the “use, conservation and regeneration of biological resources, including knowledge, science, technology and innovation related to these resources, to provide information, products, processes and services to all economic sectors, with the purpose of advancing towards a sustainable economy”.
In addition to establishing the participation of ministries and institutions, the creation of the Bioeconomic Innovation Stimulus Fund (FODEIBI) is proposed to finance the development, research and innovation of biobusinesses, bioinputs or bioproducts, among others. Likewise, it is expected to have an impact in rural areas of the country, by promoting bio-enterprises and projects outside the Greater Metropolitan Area and linked to the agricultural sector. The project was presented by the deputy Paulina Ramírez Portuguez, who had the support of specialists and students from the Center for Research in Biotechnology (CIB) and the School of Biology, of the Technological of Costa Rica (TEC).
To introduce the topic, on August 8th, the Forum was held: “Bioeconomy: innovation and development for Costa Rica”, in the Hall of Heads of State, Presidents of the Republic, of the Legislative Assembly. “The bioeconomy is an innovative development opportunity for Costa Rica. We have analyzed the recommendations issued by ECLAC, the OECD, the IDB, the FAO, and the research efforts that universities and other public and private entities have supported, in relation to the use of waste, mainly agro-industrial. In addition to the lack of a rule in the legal framework that provides legal certainty to private and public actors working on these issues”, explained Deputy Ramírez in the introduction to the forum.
For her part, the rector of the Tecnológico, Eng. María Estrada Sánchez, thanked the CIB researchers for their commitment to promote this initiative and show the Institutional commitment to work together with civil society and political forces to promote the development of the country: “It is worth highlighting all that they contribute as scientific-technological human talent to provide solutions to the urgent production problems that we have”.
Start of growing bioeconomy
Dr. Miguel Rojas Chaves, professor and researcher at the TEC, presented the role that biotechnology plays in the development of the bioeconomy in Costa Rica and the great growth expectations that this sector of the economy has globally. “There are quite successful examples of countries that, although they are very small in area and in population volume, are really powers in the bioscience part, because they have strongly supported this development. In this sense, Costa Rica must identify the strengths that it has and align itself in what is necessary, to take advantage of the opportunities that are taking place in this sector”, highlighted Dr. Rojas.
The researcher presented information from Procomer, which details that for 2018 the biotechnology sector generated 6,821 direct jobs and income close to US$629 million, equivalent to 1.05% of GDP. However, he also explained that there are important impediments for Costa Rica to advance in development in this area, such as outdated laws and regulations, lack of political support, and limitations to scientific work.
Among the limitations, he cited the way in which the Law for the Strengthening of Public Finances, the Public Employment Framework Law and the General Law of Administrative Contracting, have generated an increase in obstacles for researchers at public universities and fostered the Flight of talent. It is important to highlight that public universities in Costa Rica generate 78% of the scientific research carried out in the country.
Origin of financing for the bioeconomy
The Bill for the Promotion of the Bioeconomy proposes redistributing a small part of the budgets of the Nacimiento de Aprendizaje Institute (INA), the Rural Development Institute (Inder), the Costa Rican Foreign Trade Promoter (Procomer) and the Costa Rican Promoter of Innovation and Research, together with the issuance of green bonds and international cooperation funds, to create the Bioeconomic Innovation Stimulus Fund (FODEIBI). This fund would serve to finance training and investment projects in development, research and innovation.
The rectory of FODEIBI would oversee the Ministry of Science, Innovation, Technology and Telecommunications (MICITT), which would have the obligation to propose policies to support the bioeconomy, in conjunction with the Ministry of Economy, Industry and Commerce. For its part, the INA will oversee providing education, training, technical assistance and training programs in this area. The administration of FODEIBI will oversee the Costa Rican Promoter of Innovation and Research. While public universities and their foundations, municipalities, INA, Procomer and Inder, may execute said funds to promote or finance projects related to the development of the bioeconomy.
Fiorella Arias Bonilla, a TEC Biotechnology Engineering student who worked pro bono with Congresswoman Ramírez in formulating the project, explained that the common objective of the project is to “promote and finance research and development of the bioeconomy, and incubation of biobusinesses”. In addition, Arias explained, the initiative has a rural development component, since special emphasis will be placed on managing and financing projects outside the Greater Metropolitan Area (GAM).