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Self-fulfilling prophecies of the European knowledge-based bio-economy: the discursive shaping of institutional and policy frameworks in the bio-pharmaceuticals sector

Birch, K   Levidow, L   Papaioannou, T

Journal of the Knowledge Economy   5 (1) 1-18

DOI: 10.1007/s13132-012-0117-4

March 2014

Discourses matter. They help to shape institutions and policies. A new discourse has emerged in recent EU innovation policy centred on the idea of a knowledge-based bio-economy (KBBE). It is officially defined as ‘the sustainable, eco-efficient transformation of renewable biological resources into health, food, energy and other industrial products.’ The KBBE agenda links current problem diagnoses, research priorities, technological innovation, and societal benefits. In analysing the KBBE discourse, this paper draws on the sociology of technological expectations, which emphasises the performative, mobilising and self-fulfilling roles of such future-oriented visions. For example, the KBBE agenda shapes European research and innovation priorities in the bio-pharmaceutical sector. It frames socially relevant bio-knowledge in terms of pre-competitive research which can eventually facilitate new commercial products and patentable knowledge. Moreover, the agenda defines new institutional and policy frameworks necessary to realise societal benefits from these products and knowledge.