Rokwood: the last willow testament

Thoughts and resources to share from our EU-funded woody energy-crop project

2 November 2015

Rokwood – our 3-year, six country, EU-funded project promoting the sustainable production and use of energy crops, such as willow – came to a close last month with partners getting together for one last time in Brussels.

Attendees from Germany, Spain, Ireland, Poland, Sweden and the UK used the meeting as an opportunity to reflect on what has been achieved over the past three years.

For Kevin Lindegaard of Crops for Energy (one of the UK partners), a big part of it has been increasing the profile of the industry: "Through Rokwood we’ve been able to bang the drum a little bit louder for energy crops. We have been doing this for years, but Rokwood gave us the opportunity to publicise the benefits of short rotation plantations (SRPs) to a much wider audience.”

What happened in Brussels?

The focus of the meeting was to create a legacy for the project. How can results and publications be used and disseminated? What are the ongoing lobbying activities? How can we make the most of the stakeholder networks created? What are the funding opportunities for the project ideas devised as part of the project?

Dissemination of the project work to a wider audience is already underway. The partner meeting was arranged to coincide with the Biomass and Energy Crops V conference run by the Association of Applied Biologists, which included an afternoon session dedicated to Rokwood, as well as an evening reception for non-conference delegates. Two members of the UK cluster, Kevin and CSE’s Martin Holley, presented during this session, and a number of other project partners stayed on for the whole conference to present on other days.

A lot of what was learned and achieved during the project is discussed in the final project booklet. It is sectioned so you can dip in for a brief overview or read in depth about a topic of interest.

The booklet details:

  • Some analysis of the factors influencing the SRP sector within regions of the six partner countries. This helped prioritise those best targeted by policymakers to help the industry expand.
  • Work to define what regional and transnational research is needed to increase SRP biomass production.
  • The Joint Action Plan – one of the main outputs of the project – is a route map on how to develop the SRP sector across Europe.
  • Recommendations for policy makers, public authorities and government agencies to support the development, production and use of SRP derived woodfuel in each of the partner countries.
  • International staff exchanges to share knowledge and experience and create partnerships for future collaboration.
  • The history, future and biodiversity of SRPs in Europe.
  • Regional profiles of SRP crop production and use.

Resources to share, to help the sector grow

With dissemination in mind, these are our outputs from the project that we hope will be used to develop and improve the SRP energy crop industry.

Joint Action Plan: a catalogue of future joint activities, research areas and project ideas aimed at increasing research and technology development, market uptake and investment in woody biomass from SRPs. It has been informed by many outputs from the project, including analysis and briefings to inform policy, and work to identify gaps in research.

Best practice booklet: case studies covering every step in the biomass supply chain, from initial business planning to the distribution and use of the heat and power produced. This authoritative document has been downloaded over 1,000 times, and is almost certainly the first collection of such a wealth of information from SRP practitioners.

Online marketplace: a tool to facilitate cross-border cooperation in research. Sector stakeholders can register to start networking with market actors across Europe and the world. Today, more than 300 companies, research institutions, regional competence centres and other stakeholders are registered in the database.

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