The Bio-economy Research Chair responds to the profound environmental and social implications of pursuing the economic opportunities associated with biodiversity, biological products, and biological processes and innovations such as modern biotechnology. Despite a growing focus on the bio-economy, and its adoption as a strategic focus by South Africa and many other countries in the world, our understanding of its environmental and social dynamics and impacts remains poorly developed. Immense fluctuations in global economic systems, the rate of scientific and technological change, and the information revolution make this all the more challenging. Environmental degradation and global climate change overlay these transformations and their multifaceted consequences on the bio-economy are only just beginning to be recognised.

The Chair provides an important opportunity to advance knowledge by catalysing the advancement of research and understanding across and within disciplines, building a critical mass of intellectual capacity, enabling human capital development and in particular a new cohort of skilled postgraduate students, and informing policy and public debate. Its strong focus on engagement with communities, indigenous knowledge holders, and policy-makers, embeds a practice of engaged scholarship and social responsiveness, with the objective of developing a pioneering, highly collaborative and globally relevant knowledge hub with international stature.

Located in the Department of Environmental and Geographical Science at the University of Cape Town, the Bio-economy Research Chair is one of 32 Chairs at the University, forming part of the South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI) established by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) in 2005 and implemented by the National Research Foundation (NRF). The main goal of SARChI is to strengthen and improve research leadership and research capacity in public universities by producing high-quality postgraduate students and advancing research.