Creating a sustainable bioeconomy—which takes advantage of unused or underexploited bio-resources, turns them into replacements for fossil-based fuel, energy, and products and contributes to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and the protection of local environments—is a truly monumental task. It depends on companies entering into an uncertain field where they do not know if their production technologies will work, how high their production costs will be, or if their products will meet a receptive market. In such an uncertain environment, companies usually invest and proceed cautiously in a stepwise manner, starting with laboratory experimentation, moving on to pilot plants, and then full scale demonstrations before engaging in full-fledged commercial activities. Demonstration projects and trials are consequently a crucial tool for companies to facilitate learning and reduce risk associated with bio-based innovations and a vital instrument for policy makers to direct and encourage the development of a sustainable bioeconomy.
Although demonstration projects and trials play a critical role in development and deployment of new technologies, the literature on the subject is fairly fragmented and disjointed. The aim of this article is provide a comprehensive overview of this literature and highlight important findings of relevance for the development of a sustainable bioeconomy. Studies have shown that demonstration projects and trials play an important role in developing new bio-based fuels, energy and products and insights gained about demonstration projects and trials are therefore highly relevant for both companies and policy makers engaged in the bioeconomy.