Home E Societal Engagement Story – The birth of the BioHero

The birth of the BioHero

The genesis of the BioHero has its origin in the Covid 19 pandemic when working days were filled with online meetings. One day, after work, I attended a four-hour workshop organised by my colleague’s project. Four hours is quite a long time, especially for an online workshop, but it went over in the blink of an eye. It was a co-creation workshop of the project Allthings.bioPRO, which aims to create a mobile app and a serious mobile game to playfully inform citizens about the bioeconomy as a sustainable economic alternative in four areas of our everyday life: food packaging, fashion & textiles, jobs & careers and kids & schools.
We were a mixed group of people from their early twenties to their late sixties, from different backgrounds, some with knowledge about bioeconomy, others with experience in gaming and we had one thing in common: our excitement to contribute our ideas and knowledge.
About the project:

Allthings.bioPRO gets citizens involved in the bioeconomy and makes sure their voices are heard. The project focuses on topics and products that are closely related to our daily lives: a career within the bioeconomy, food packaging, fashion & textiles as well as kids & schools. By making use of a co-creation approach involving both citizens and experts, a serious game informing players about the bioeconomy in a fun way and a mobile app that provides users with information about the bio-based content and biodegradability of the products were developed. The project also initiated a network on LinkedIn named “BioAction – The Bioeconomy Facts and Fun Network” that welcomes citizens, projects and organisations with and without knowledge of bioeconomy, but all with a willingness to learn more about it and bio-based alternatives. The network provides a common ground to exchange knowledge and to support an interactive community of citizens with their ideas and initiatives about bioeconomy. Allthings.bioPRO also released a podcast, factsheets, journalistic articles and educational videos on bioeconomy.

About the narrator:

Valerie Sartorius works for the Agency for Renewable Resources (Fachagentur für Nachwachsende Rohstoffe (FNR e.V.)) and participated in one of the co-creation workshops described in this article before she took over the project coordination in October 2021.

During this workshop we had to create different characters, each with different ages and interests. For example, one character is a career starter who wants to be independent, save the world, and has a fear of failure. Another character is a team leader of the personnel department of a textile company who wants to get rich during the restructuring of the company to become more sustainable while improving its productivity. We put ourselves in the characters’ shoes and thought about what they would like to learn about bioeconomy and, most importantly, how. This required flexibility and open-mindedness from all participants. The workshop moderators used ice-breakers to create a welcoming and friendly environment where we felt comfortable learning from one another, whether it was about bioeconomy or game development. We could express our views openly, and were interested to see how our ideas would be taken up and incorporated into the development of the game as the project progressed.
Over a period of 18 months, we, citizens and bioeconomy experts, participated in several of those workshops contributing to the concepts and designs of the applications. The workshops took place in Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy and Estonia, the five countries from which the project partners come. While writing the project proposal, it was decided that two schools would participate in the workshops. The comprehensive school Eiserfeld in Siegen, Germany and the Tartu Environmental Education Centre in Estonia participated in the co-creation phase. There were eight workshop groups in total, with two groups focusing on one of the four areas of the project. Allthings.bioPRO made use of two overlapping concepts, the Co-Creation approach and the human-centred Design Thinking approach, to create meaningful and helpful solutions.


The focus of the workshops was adapted along with the progress of the technical game development. While we created fictional characters to predict their needs and decisions at the beginning of the workshops, specific game ideas and content were discussed in later meetings. The workshops were interactive and stimulating. But it was not easy for us workshop participants and the project partners to bring individual ideas together into one game. Unlike baking a cake from a recipe, the implentation of Allthings.bioPRO was more like collaboratively creating a dish from multiple potential ingredients while always taking into account every participant’s different tastes and preferences. The objective was to create a serious game that could inspire both young and old and introduce as many topics related to bioeconomy as possible, using quizzes and tasks. Difficulties often arose in reconciling the depth of the information to be provided and the gaming factor of the task at hand, which led to stimulating discussions to reach an agreement. As the game and app are meant for citizens, it was important for the game developers to integrate our opinions as members of the general public from the outset. They allowed us to decide which topics we wanted to know more about and how this could best be conveyed. All the ideas and conceptions that came out of the various workshops of the different missions were collected, sorted and evaluated by the Allthings.bioPRO project partner and game and app design developer Nurogames. The ideas that seemed the most feasible to realise were taken. In principle you could put a lot of topics in a game but to keep it light and fun, we had to choose wisely.


List of game design ideas resulting from the co-creation process of Allthings.bioPRO

Design suggestions for the Earth. Source: Allthings.bioPRO, D3.3: Report on the draft concept for each mission

In one of the workshops, the idea of sending a hero to Earth emerged, delivering the message from the architects of the universe that Earth is not worth saving. The hero, however, disagrees and believes that the earth can still be saved and that humanity only needs support. Because the hero defies its superiors, it loses all superpowers. Nevertheless, the hero does not give up and supports mankind’s journey to save the world. With every progress made the hero will earn back parts of its superpowers.

The avatar, the BioHero, was designed by the two schools involved in the project. The pupils had the idea of depicting the Earth as a filthy, polluted planet, which is being cleaned and renewed bit by bit through the successful completion of the individual campaigns.

Design suggestions for other in-game creatures. Source: Allthings.bioPRO, D3.3: Report on the draft concept for each mission

When playing, users can become BioHeroes who help mankind change their fossil-based way of life to a more bio-based, sustainable one. In 8 consecutive quests, the BioHero has to solve different quizzes and tasks, reduce the emission of product chains, can compete with other BioHeroes and learns step by step a little bit more about the bioeconomy.

The beta-version of the game and the mobile app are currently being tested and the final versions are expected in summer 2023.


Allthings.bioPRO avatar. Big picture left: Plain avatar without players’ preferences. Small pictures to the right: The player can change the avatar as desired. The avatar can look like an animal (with horns or animal ears) or like a human, the skin color can be changed too.

Some of us workshop participants have wondered whether this was a one-off opportunity to get our thoughts and ideas out in the open so that they can be heard by industry and policymakers, or if there is an opportunity to pick up on this momentum and carry it forward. A networking community was established to maintain this informal atmosphere where people can give free rein to their ideas on the bioeconomy and share them with other people. The aim is to engage citizens in discussions on the bioeconomy through challenges and surveys, to provide news on the bioeconomy and to enable the exchange of knowledge and learning. In order to reach a large number of people, the network was initiated as a LinkedIn group “BioAction – The Bioeconomy Facts and Fun Network”, which will be connected to other social media such as Facebook and Instagram.


Would you also like to become a BioHero but you do not want to wait until the final version is released? We then invite you to test the beta-version of the game and give us feedback on our current game version. For further information please contact Maria Khrapunenko (maria.khrapunenko@ibs.ee).

Did you know Allthings.bioPRO also develops a mobile app? You can use it to scan labels, logos and EU certifications on bio-based products and figure out what they mean. 


Allthings.bioPRO has received funding from the Bio-based Industries Joint Undertaking (JU) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 887070. The JU receives support from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme and the Bio-based Industries Consortium.

Text by Valerie Sartorius, Fachagentur für Nachwachsende Rohstoffe (FNR e.V.)

Clara Boissenin, Cristina Paca, Nicola Hamilton and Nick Murray (Ecsite) contributed.