An increasing number of countries develop bio-economy strategies to promote a stronger reliance on the efficient use of renewable biological resources in order to meet multiple sustainability challenges. At the global scale, however, bio-economies are diverse, with sectors such as agriculture, forestry, energy, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, as well as science and education. In this study, we developed a typology of bio-economies based on country-specific characteristics, and describe five different bio-economy types with varying degrees of importance in the primary and the high-tech sector. We also matched the bio-economy types against the foci of their bio-economy strategies and evaluated their sustainability performance. Overall, high-tech bio-economies seem to be more diversified in terms of their policy strategies while the policies of those relying on the primary sector are focused on bioenergy and high-tech industries. In terms of sustainability performance, indicators suggest that diversified high-tech economies have experienced a slight sustainability improvement, especially in terms of resource consumption. Footprints remain, however, at the highest levels compared to all other bio-economy types with large amounts of resources and raw materials being imported from other countries. These results highlight the necessity of developed high-tech bio-economies to further decrease their environmental footprint domestically and internationally, and the importance of biotechnology innovation transfer after critical and comprehensive sustainability assessments.
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