Bioeconomy Cluster

Network of multisectoral actors that promote sustainable bioeconomy strategies in the agri-food and ecotourism sectors in four Colombian regions

The project Bioeconomy Cluster: Meeting policy challenges for a responsible biodiversity based bio-economy in Colombia is funded by the Global Challenge Research Fund (GCRF) of UK Research & Innovation. The main purpose of the project is to bring together researchers, academics, industry, communities and decision-makers, to jointly identify the challenges and opportunities to develop bioeconomy strategies in four regions of the country: Antioquia, Eje Cafetero, Orinoquia and Valle del Cauca.

The multisectoral experience of the group that makes up the Cluster seeks to develop a shared vision, in which an economy based on biodiversity is the way to achieve sustainability, and social and economic prosperity in the targeted regions of the project.


Facilitate collaborations between stakeholders to strengthen bonds of trust, promote knowledge transfer and create new productive partnerships.

Adopt innovative approaches and technologies to increase research and development capabilities within academia and industry.

Stimulate the transfer of knowledge and promote policies and recommendations.


Database of bioeconomy projects in Colombia

This database presents the results of a comprehensive compilation of bioeconomy projects and actors in Colombia, focusing in four regions: Antioquia, Zona Cafetera, Valle del Cauca y Orinoquia. To obtain this data, we used secondary sources of information, including governmental databases and results from internet search engines, as well as primary sources, including surveys, workshops and reports from our project’s allies.

Socioeconomic Report Bioeconomy opportunities for four Colombian Regions

This report analyses, with a socioeconomic perspective, the macroeconomic and governance principles which should underpin the foundations of a sustainable bioeconomy transition. In addition, using an empirical data-driven discourse, the opportunities, barriers and limitations for a bioeconomy development in four regions of Colombia (Antioquia, Zona Cafetera, Valle del Cauca y Orinoquia) are discussed.

Ecoturism in Orinoquía

Bioeconomy in Four Colombian Regions Online Workshop

The virtual workshop “The state of the bioeconomy in Colombia, its progress and challenges in four regions within the Sustainable Development Goals framework” was held between March 15th and 19th, 2021. In the workshop, the global bioeconomy trends were presented and the bioeconomy development trends in Colombia were discussed, with special emphasis on 4 regions: Antioquia, Coffee Zone, Orinoquía and Valle del Cauca.

Workshop Report: The state of the bioeconomy in Colombia, its progress and challenges in four regions within the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals


FAUNY: This app promotes the observation of bird and amphibian species in two regions of Colombia. This app is designed for children (between 12 and 18 years old).


Main Researchers


Federica Di Palma

Professor Federica Di Palma is a Principal Investigator in the Bioeconomy Cluster Project. She is a Professorial Fellow of Biodiversity in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of East Anglia and Director of the BRIDGE Colombia global network of researchers across the UK and Colombia. Professor Di Palma leads a number of research programmes aimed at understanding the evolution of complex traits and the regulatory processes underlying evolutionary change. She has also implemented several research programmes for countries on the DAC list aimed at building partnerships, generating genomic resources and delivering technical training events in genomics and informatics. Professor Di Palma received her Ph.D. in Immunogenetics from the Institute for Animal Health and the University of Reading. Previously, she was at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard where she served as Assistant Director of Vertebrate Genome Biology, and remains a visiting scientist.


Silvia Restrepo

Silvia Restrepo is a Principal Investigator in the Bioeconomy Cluster Project. She is a full professor at Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá Colombia. Silvia is a plant pathologist with more than 20 years of experience as a researcher working with farmers and scientist to develop new cassava and potato varieties resistant to several diseases. She has been the leader of several projects, has advised more than 30 Masters and 10 Ph.D students. Nowdays, she is the Vice President for research and creation at Universidad de los Andes and has helped the university in improving its research and creation impact in Colombia and internationally.



Kerry Turner

Professor Kerry Turner specialises in environmental economics, coastal zone and wetland management, conservation economics and waste management research. He has published widely (300 publications) on these subjects including a number of best selling texts.


Felipe García

Felipe García is co investigator in the Bioeconomy Cluster Project. He currently works as the Biodiversity Sciences Program Coordinator at Humboldt Institute. He has 20+ years of experience in conservation, knowledge and sustainable use of biodiversity and natural resources. He is skilled in carrying out programs, projects and governance processes with different stakeholders: public and private institutions, NGO’s, local communities, indigenous people and afro-descendent communities.


María Francisca Villegas Torres

Microbiologist with a doctorate in Biochemical Engineering with experience in industrial microbiology. She is currently an assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Universidad de los Andes.


José de Vega

José de Vega is a Fellow at Earlham Institute (EI), delivering a research programme in agricultural biodiversity and genomics. His interests lie with genomics, bioinformatics and breeding; at the core of this research is forging effective partnerships with plant breeders, researches and gene banks. Among his main objectives, is to actively contribute to the Global Development Goals (SDGs) and EI’s international development strategy, where he applies multidisciplinary Agri-tech research to help feed a changing world. He is keen to engage with researchers and stakeholders and strongly supports collaborative, open-source principles in science and its data.


Silvia Ferrini

Silvia Ferrini is a Co Investigator in the Bioeconomy Cluster Project. Dr. Ferrini is an applied economist with a long track record of research experience. Her research interests are applied economics, non-market evaluation methods, discrete choice models and experimental design techniques.


Catherine Brooksbank

Head of Training, EMBL-EBI. Cath joined EMBL-EBI in 2002 to develop the outreach programme, and extended her responsibilities to include training in 2006. Her team now coordinates a wide-ranging portfolio of training activities reaching tens of thousands of individuals each year. She contributes to a number of international projects including CABANA (which she leads), EOSC-Life, BioExcel and CINECA. She is co-chair of the Education Committee for the International Society of Computational Biology (ISCB) and sits on the Board of Directors for ISCB. She is a member of the advisory board for the Crick African Network. Cath has a PhD in biochemistry from the University of Cambridge, UK.


Marije Schaafsma

Socio-economist. Marije is an Assistant Professor at School of Geography and Environmental Science at the University of Southampton. She is specialised in analysing the well-being and welfare effects of ecosystem services changes, using monetary and non-monetary valuation methods.

Associate Researchers


Tatiana Cantillo

She holds a MSc degree in Economics and Policy of Energy and the Environment from University College London. She uses applied quantitative methods for answering social science research questions. Her research interests revolves around sustainability, environmental conservation, energy and development.


Gaetano Grilli

Gaetano Grilli is a research associate in the Bioeconomy Cluster project. His current work focuses on biodiversity valuation and sustainable development. Gaetano is an applied economist specialising in quantitative methods for environmental and social research. He is interested in the relationships between ecosystem services and individual well-being, focusing on environmental valuation, applied microeconomics, and quality-of-life.


Jaime Erazo

He is an environmental economist, who carries out economic analysis for incentives design to promote biodiversity conservation, sustainable use and ecosystem services promotion. He worked with private reserves, cattle ranchers, palm oil producers, brown sugar producers, environmental authorities, and NGOs. He has also helped to generate projects and policy proposal for biodiversity conservation and Payment for Ecosystem Services in Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela and Brazil, at national and regional level. He uses Geographic Information Systems for land use planning and environmental economic analysis.


Alberto Aparicio

His research interests include the governance of biotechnology and societal responses to shifting meanings and attitudes about life in contemporary bioscience, as well as the framing and social relevance of technoscience. He is currently a postdoctoral fellow in the Program on Science, Technology & Society at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, as part of the Global Observatory for Genome Editing. In his previous position as postdoctoral researcher at the Instituto Alexander von Humboldt, he studied the social practices and narratives behind the valuation of biodiversity and its influence in shaping Colombian bioeconomy policy. He received his PhD in Science and Technology Studies from University College London in 2019, where he studied the construction of safety in synthetic biology by scientists as responsible governance. He has held various policy and management roles, in academic, consultancy and government institutions.

Management Team


Juan Azcárate

He has a PhD in Water and Land Resources Engineering from KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden, with experience and interest in including environmental and sustainability values in strategic planning and decision making.


Lynsey Harris

Lynsey is part of the Bioeconomy Cluster Project´s management team. She supports the project from the University of East Anglia. Prior to working with the Cluster Project, Lynsey worked in office management for the NHS, project management for a global healthcare IT organisation and programme management for the UK’s largest provider of youth justice distance learning courses and degrees.


Sandra Victoria Flechas

Sandra V. Flechas: Biologist, with a PhD in Biological Sciences from the Universidad de los Andes. She is interested in conservation and in the development of strategies that help mitigate the impact of emerging infectious diseases on wildlife.


Natalia Valderrama

She is a biologist from the National University of Colombia and has a master's degree in Sustainable Resource Management from the Technical University of Munich. Her interests include knowledge management of biodiversity and ecosystem services; sustainable management of biodiversity, and; how the gap between science and policymaking can be bridged through knowledge management. Before joining the project, Natalia worked at the Earlham Institute (UK) as the GROW Project Manager.



Sandra Zapata

Agroindustrial Production Engineer, PhD in Engineering with Emphasis on Natural Products Valuation. Experience in formulation, management and execution of projects on issues related to research, innovation, technological development, product development and adaptation of new technologies with an emphasis on products obtained from biodiversity in a sustainable way, in companies associated with the agri-food sector.


Clara Leticia Serrano - Asorinoquia

Asociación Empresarial para el Desarrollo de la Orinoquia, ASORINOQUIA, is a private non-profit organization of a Trade Union nature, created by a group of businessmen in the region, to promote and support strategic initiatives that seek regional well-being and development, with emphasis in equity, which has been registered with the Villavicencio Chamber of Commerce since 2010.


Jorge Enrique Bedoya Vizcaya

President of the SAC (Sociedad de Agricultores de Colombia), since March 2017. The SAC is the largest farmers association in Colombia, which groups 22 different sectors of production representing 73% of the agricultural GDP of Colombia.

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