Unpacking the Concept of Bioeconomy: Problems of Definition, Measurement, and Value


In this paper, we critically explore the evolution and impact of the concept ‘bioeconomy’ as a descriptor and driver of diff erent scientific, technological, and policy initiatives in the life sciences. We unpack the different ways bioeconomy has been framed – as an emergent, present, or sometimes promissory economic regime underpinned by particular socio-technical practices - by tracing how its use has evolved in different disciplinary field and sectors. We also critically analyse three key reports that attempt to measure the size and contribution of the bioeconomy at regional levels. Our overarching questions are: What is the bioeconomy, how has it been used in different fields, and how might it be best understood and valued both economically and politically? In answering these questions, we build on and contribute to critical scholarship in science and technology studies, particularly theoretical work on biovalue, commodification, and assetisation; using this in conjunction with our empirical concept search and document analysis to contribute new knowledge and understanding of the bioeconomy’s past, present, and future.


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Author Biographies

James Mittra, Dr, University of Edinburgh

James Mittra is a Senior Lecturer, and Head of Science, Technology and Innovation Studies at the University of Edinburgh. He is an interdisciplinary social scientist, with a background in Sociology and Philosophy, whose research interests span innovation in life sciences, with a particular focus on health, medicine and the changing R&D organisation, practices and value(s) underpinning the emerging global bioeconomy.

Giorgos Zoukas, Mr, University of Edinburgh

Geogios is a PhD candidate in Science, Technology and Innovation Studies, University of Edinburgh. His research focuses on a small selection of scientist-produced climate blogs, exploring the way these blogs connect into, and form part of, broader climate science communication. 


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