Current research

Within Bioeconomics the following research topics are being dealt with:

 

1. Bio-based Economic Development

Bio-based Economic DevelopmentProfessor: Miet Maertens
Senior researchers: Goedele Van den Broeck
Junior researchers: Genaye Tsegaye, Kevin Teopista Akoyi, Fikadu Mitiku, Cindybell Gamboa, Floris Dalemans, Kaat Van Hoyweghen, Diana Llacsahuanga Carrasco, Moses Kakungulu, Tafesse Weldeegziena Gezahegn, Oyakhilomen Oyinbo

Mission
Many developing countries are rich in natural resources. Some countries have succeeded in turning this resource richness into sustained economic growth and poverty reduction. Others have largely failed to do so and are trapped in a system of slow growth, persistent poverty and increased degradation of the natural resource base. We believe that scientific knowledge and scientific capacity are key factors in bringing about prosperity that is based on sustainable natural resource management. The mission of the research group Bio-based Economic Development is to contribute to sustainable development through the creation and dissemination of scientific knowledge. Our aim is to do so in collaboration with researchers and research institutes from developing countries and thereby increasing the much needed scientific capacity in those countries.

Focus
This research group focuses on poverty reduction and economic growth in poor countries and on the sustainable and efficient use of natural resource to realize pro-poor growth. We study the environmental and socio-economic outcomes in bio-based economic sectors, including the production and marketing of food, feed, fiber, fuel and flowers. We develop economic and bio-economic models and use them in combination with insights from agronomy and natural sciences to assess environmental and socio-economic outcomes. We use quantitative, mainly survey-based, methods in empirical studies.

Our research is centered round three themes:

  • Impact evaluation: identifying and quantifying the impact of government policies, development projects, and private sector investments in bio-based economic sectors of developing countries. This research focuses on the economic, social and environmental implications of policy changes, with specific attention to poverty, food security and gender issues. The research is based on insights from development economics, including intra-household economics, as well as natural sciences and agronomy. We use up-to-date empirical approaches such as propensity score methods, instrumental variable and two-stage estimation techniques, difference in differences estimations, and experimental techniques to quantify the effects.
  • Innovation adoption: a focus on the factors that determine adoption of new technologies for bio-based production such as integrated soil fertility management, conservation agriculture and improved crop rotations. We use quantitative methods, including innovative approaches such as choice experiments, to assess the socio-economic and institutional factors that constrain or boost technological innovation. In this research we adopt a dynamic perspective.
  • Value chain analysis: a focus on bio-based value chains in a globalized economy. We analyze the constraints and possibilities to develop modern value chains for food, feed, fiber, fuel and flowers through technical, commercial and institutional innovations. We study three core issues: entry and participation in the chains, rent distribution along the chains, and governance in the chains. We assess how value chain development and the integration of value chains in a global bio-based economy can contribute to sustainable and pro-poor growth. This research is based on conceptual insights from value chain research and on survey- based evidence from case-studies of specific value chains.

URL projects: ees.kuleuven.be/bioecon/projects

2. SFERE - Sustainable Food Economies Research

SFERE - Sustainable Food Economies ResearchProfessor: Erik Mathijs
Senior researchers: Tessa Avermaete, Isabelle Bonjean
Junior researchers: Natalia Karolina Brzezina, Anastasia Papangelou, Marie Quinney, Jana Schwarz, Tjitske Anna Zwart

Our key points of interest:
• European food system
• Resilience, sustainability and vulnerability
• Agriculture
• Food policies
• Transition towards a more sustainable economy

SFERE is a research team that deals with sustainability of the food chain. We aim to obtain insights in global food demand and food production, including challenges and opportunities of the food system. We focus thereby on the vulnerability and resilience of European food systems in a context of socio-economic, behavioural, technological, institutional and agro-ecological change. We also study practices and policies that support the sustainability of primary producers taking into account the complex policy requirements, market imperfections and globalization. Our point of departure is Europe and Flanders, although we recognize the need to look beyond European borders when analysing food chains anno 2016.

Interaction and communication with other researchers as well as with stakeholders outside the academic world is inherent to our research approach. In this sense, our team launched a blog: https://biosfere.wordpress.com/

URL projects: ees.kuleuven.be/bioecon/projects

3. Society-Environment Interactions

Society-Environment InteractionsProfessor: Liesbet Vranken
Affiliated senior researchers: Francis Turkelboom
Junior researchers
: Frederik Lerouge, Kewan Mertens, Karin Begazo Curie

Research themes
• Sustainable land management
• Valuation of ecosystem services
• Land markets and land institutions
• Corporate Social Responsibility
• Impact analysis of agricultural and environmental policies

Background
Population growth puts a lot of pressures on natural resources so that human activity, rather than natural succession, is currently the most common cause of environmental change. Measures in different policy fields (agriculture, forestry, spatial planning, environment) affect changes in resource use and the provision of ecosystem services through their impact on human activities. In order to arrive at integrated resource management, one needs to understand the decision making process of economic agents, the policy context and institutional framework in which these decisions are taken and how these decisions interact with the ecological environment. Furthermore, to be able to prioritize between policies or resource management practices, one also needs to be able to value the benefits of ecosystems to humans and society.

Focus
The Society-Environment Interactions Research Group studies the link between economic and ecological models by refining functions of socio-economic drivers that are used to model resource use change and changes in ecosystem services, and how institutions (policy decisions and regulations) affect this link. The research group focuses on understanding the adoption of sustainable land management practices, assessing their impact and understanding how policies affect society-environment interactions. They develop methods to valuate ecosystem services and transfer valuation results to other sites while dealing with the uncertainty surrounding the future consequences.

Approach
Up-to-date empirical approaches are used to estimate economic, social and environmental impacts. Socio-economic effects are quantified using instrumental variable and two-stage estimation techniques, difference in differences estimations, and experimental techniques. Environmental effects are evaluated using valuation techniques. Integrative quantitative models of human and environmental systems are developed based on spatial econometrics for the analysis of land management policies. By combining quantitative economic and social data with spatial data, methods to valuate ecosystem services are developed while taking into account spatial effects.

URL projects: ees.kuleuven.be/bioecon/projects