urban BioEconomyLab – a living lab that is guiding cities toward a sustainable bioeconomy

The bioeconomy enables a climate-neutral and sustainable economy based on the renewable raw material biomass. In the "urban BioEconomyLab" project, Fraunhofer IGB develops for the first time a transformation model and a living laboratory to find bioeconomic solutions for the sustainable design of cities and municipal industry. To this end, the IGB is working with urban pilot regions in Baden-Württemberg, hand in hand with local companies and authorities.

Challenges and objective

Numerous new bioeconomic approaches and processes have already been investigated and further developed in recent years in order to foster a biobased, climate-neutral and sustainable economy based on the renewable raw material biomass. However, a systemic approach that does not only consider individual processes but is designed holistically does not exist so far.

The aim of the "urban BioEconomyLab" project, which is funded by the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of the Environment, Climate Protection and the Energy Sector, is therefore to develop a bioeconomic economic environment at the system level of a city, in which biobased value creation largely takes place in the system itself, using biomass and CO2 in wastewater, waste and exhaust air as raw materials.


Project plan

In this project, Fraunhofer IGB is developing methods and solutions as well as suggestions for their concrete implementation in order to transfer bioeconomic processes, materials and products into urban and industrial reality. The focus is particularly on the sustainable design of material flows and supply chains – ideally in the form of closed cycles. For example, the project analyzes where biowaste, other waste, wastewater, exhaust gases and CO2 are generated that can be used with biological processes, procedures and principles in the industrial, commercial and municipal sectors.

The project examines three urban regions in Baden-Württemberg as role models: Stuttgart, Mannheim and Karlsruhe. One of these urban regions will be selected to validate and further adapt the developed methodology. The method will then be applied to the other two urban regions to demonstrate the transferability of the methodology. In parallel, implementation possibilities of the proposed measures will be identified.


Solution approach

For this purpose, the City Lab Method developed in the Fraunhofer Morgenstadt Initiative and already employed in numerous projects will be applied. In the project, the City Lab Method will be further developed into the BioEconomyLab Method in order to be able to analyze relevant parameters and address overarching measures that are necessary for a change towards a sustainable bioeconomy.

The method allows to analyze all areas of a city including its companies with regard to bioeconomic material flows and to identify fields of action with the participation of local stakeholders. With regard to material flows of agricultural and forestry products on the one hand and nutrients and organic residues on the other hand, interfaces to rural areas are also to be considered.


The methodology

The core of the BioEconomyLab methodology is a comprehensive analysis of all urban sectors (waste and resources, wastewater, energy, industry, mobility, governance), from which action guidelines can be derived for policymakers to make sound and sustainable decisions.

In detail, there are five working steps: After an initial analysis based on a questionnaire in which indicators and parameters are queried, an evaluation of the identified fields of action and a sensitivity analysis of the local influencing factors follow. In the urban BioEconomyLab project, interviews are also conducted with stakeholders and on-site visits are made in order to become familiar with the local conditions. On this basis, the IGB researchers develop and prioritize strategic measures. In the final stage, the measures are grouped into clusters and transferred to a roadmap, which serves as a basis for further concrete action by the stakeholders.


Urban and industrial sectors according to the BioEconomyLab method
© Fraunhofer IGB
Urban and industrial sectors according to the BioEconomyLab method

Model region Stuttgart: Data collection for relevant sectors

Indicators available from public sources (many of which can also be accessed online) and potential fields of action have been collected for the Stuttgart region and reduced to a data set characteristic of this region that contains less than 100 individual values.

Semi-structured interviews have been conducted within the Stuttgart region to ask representatives from the sectors of

  1. population and governance,
  2. commerce and industry,
  3. energy,
  4. water and circular economy, and
  5. the environment

about their experience and insights regarding the bioeconomy transformation within the region, particularly in relation to transformation drivers and obstacles.

The next step building on this preliminary work is a workshop to gather and discuss concrete proposals for making bioeconomy processes, materials and products a reality within urban and industrial settings. On this basis, a road map, including concrete recommended actions and measures, will be drawn up for the Stuttgart region.


Pilot regions to serve as a transformation model

On February 13, 2023, a networking event was held at Fraunhofer IGB in Stuttgart for stakeholders in the urban and industrial bioeconomy in Baden-Württemberg, thereby laying the foundation for long-term and productive cooperation between them.

In 2023 and 2024, the plan is to build on the BioEconomyLab method developed on the basis of the Stuttgart region by conducting similar surveys and workshops for the regions around Mannheim and Karlsruhe with the aim of identifying priority measures to encourage the bioeconomy transformation of the economic system.



With the scenarios and measures developed, the project aims to enable the participating urban regions to implement a resource-efficient and circular economy based on renewable and recycled raw materials as well as biological resources in order to enable the transformation to a sustainable bioeconomy. Thus, the implementation of the state strategy Sustainable Bioeconomy Baden-Württemberg is also supported.

Project information

Project title

urban BioEconomyLab – Transformation model and living laboratory for a systemic sustainable approach of an urban and industrial bioeconomy in Baden-Württemberg


Project duration

December 2021 – November 2024


Project coordinator

Fraunhofer IGB


The project "urban BioEconomyLab" is funded by the environmental research program "BWPLUS - Baden-Württemberg Program Lebensgrundlage Umwelt und ihre Sicherung", funding code L75 22101, from state funds approved by the state parliament of Baden-Württemberg (Baden-Württemberg Ministry of the Environment, Climate Protection and the Energy Sector).