1.5 Education and competence

Competence and ensuring it are of primary importance in the bioeconomy operating environment defined in the strategy.  Bioeconomy actors have identified industry-specific and common technological development needs related to the operating environment and business, both in education and working life.

Educating bioeconomy sector experts and producing new knowledge are essential. This will require a national ability to utilise not only information produced in Finland but also new knowledge produced elsewhere in the world. Bioeconomy research and the experts trained using this research are a prerequisite for innovations. Both public and private research are significant, and their interaction must be increased, for example through programmes. With regard to the creation and application of knowledge, the bioeconomy is a multidisciplinary environment in which a sustainable way of using renewable natural resources to produce bio-based products, food, energy and services is studied. The utilisation of digitalisation is increasingly linked to the bioeconomy, for example in the form of artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things.

The range of studies related to the bioeconomy offered by higher education institutions has expanded. Universities and universities of applied sciences have dozens of degree programmes related to the bioeconomy from basic education to opportunities to specialise in bioeconomy (www.opintopolku.fi). For example, specialisation in bioeconomy is a module implemented by ten universities of applied sciences and two universities.

Open higher education offers opportunities to develop competence based on one’s own interest or parallel with working life. The “Bioeconomy Expert’s Competence Portfolio” is a study module offered by higher education institutions, which includes courses in bioeconomy offered as part of open higher education at many different higher education institutions.

An effort is made in vocational education and training and its planning to anticipate the increasing competence needs of different sectors, including the renewal of the bioeconomy. At the moment, challenges have been encountered between the provision of vocational education and training and the needs of professionals.

New competence needs and wishes related to strengthening resilience have been proposed for vocational education and training. In working life, competence requirements are constantly changing and vocational competence should be updated regularly, as tasks change and new technologies challenge employees. Natural sciences and specialisation in the bioeconomy alone are not enough, and education must also develop expertise related to cooperation and business:  Management skills, understanding and implementing strategy processes, project work competence and other cooperation skills. As circular economy and ecosystem practices become more common, the understanding and skills for the utilisation of different business models will significantly challenge our corporate culture.