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Boosting jobs and growth through sustainable and intelligent forestry - Dec. 19, 2013

Boosting jobs and growth through sustainable and intelligent forestry - Dec. 19, 2013

The creation of a pan-European information system will help unlock substantial forest resources in more a sustainable manner. This is the aim of the EU-funded SIMWOOD (Sustainable Innovative Mobilisation of Wood) project, which is developing the MOBILISER, a new online knowledge base that will spread integrated, transferable solutions and viable policies across Europe. 

Europe has more than 117 million hectares of forest. However, sustainable utilisation - especially in privately owned woods - falls some way short of its potential. In addition, the ever-increasing demand for wood for material and energy applications is becoming more and more difficult to meet. 

The four-year SIMWOOD was launched in November 2013 in order to address this issue, and to promote more efficient use of the available supply of wood. To begin the project will record existing socio-economic, technical and ecological barriers to sustainable forestry. Through a series of pilot projects, SIMWOOD will then test promising initiatives in close cooperation with local stakeholders. The MOBILISER online information system will help to evaluate the effect of these new approaches, and improve them as needed. 

Through the MOBILISER, good practices and technologies, existing stakeholder initiatives and effective support programmes will be promoted and disseminated. An expert system will evaluate the impact of up-scaling solutions to the EU level. The system will also link to Regional Learning Labs in order fostering greater participation and enhanced forest governance. 

The system will feature an intuitive, multi-lingual interface in order to maximise the uptake of integrated solutions by forest owners and stakeholders across Europe and beyond. This will give forest owners, foresters and SMEs access to information and recommendations that, up until now, has been difficult to get hold of. 

Making better use of Europe's sustainable forestry resources could help boost jobs and growth. It is estimated that 853 million cubic metres of timber and 585 million cubic metres of wood for energy will be needed in 2030; the provision of such quantities represents a challenge, but also an opportunity. 

The timber industry in Europe alone currently comprises about 600 000 companies such as sawmills and furniture manufacturers with four to five million employees altogether and an annual sales of EUR 550 billion. For them, a reliable local source of raw materials represents a guarantee for stable growth. 

The project, which will receive a total of EUR 5 990 311 in EU funding, involves 28 partners from Germany, Belgium, Finland, France, Great Britain, Ireland, the Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden, Slovenia and Spain. The consortium also includes two European research institutes - the Joint Research Centre (JRC) and the European Forest Institute (EFI). The involvement of the JRC and EFI will enable the project results to be widely disseminated, and will ensure that the cross-regional monitoring system will continue beyond the project's lifetime. 

Overall the project is expected to play a significant role in increasing supplies of wood, enhancing sustainable forest use and strengthening the forest-based sector as a key contributor to Europe's growing bio-economy. SIMWOOD is scheduled for completion in October 2017.

Dec. 19, 2013