Spaces of the forest-based bioeconomy in Finnish Lapland and Catalonia: practitioners, narratives and forgotten spatialities

Over the last decade, the bioeconomy has been increasingly promoted as a strategy able to shift our economies away from fossil fuels and boost local economic growth, especially of rural areas in Europe. The bioeconomy is an important part of the European Union agenda, it is promoted through European wide strategies that are translated into local and regional policies. However, the bioeconomy does not unfold equally across regions; it has different implications influenced by the spaces and the narratives with which the policies are created and implemented. Amongst all the actors participating in the bioeconomy strategies, local practitioners play a crucial role in interpreting the narratives and implementing the policies in a way that makes sense for their local contexts. Hence, there is a need to understand how local and regional practitioners apply bioeconomy strategies to grasp how those are expressed in different regional contexts. Through the case studies of the forest-based bioeconomy in Catalonia and Finnish Lapland, this paper explains why economic narratives prevail in the local bioeconomy and how regional spatialities are affected by it. The cases show that the bioeconomy remains close to economic growth and is applied through regional economic development policies, thus focusing on specific economic sectors and hindering the role of the bioeconomy in a wider regional transformation. Understanding the narratives and how these reflect the spatialities help us to advance a spatially sensitive approach to the bioeconomy, this is, a bioeconomy practised according to the socio-spatial conditions, closer to ideas of inclusivity, plurality and justice, and with a greater role in a wider regional transformation, rather than the greening of specific economic sectors.