What is a symbiotic eco-community? It is a community or an environment in which industries, lifestyles and nature can coexist in harmony. In this eco-community, all species live under the motto of “to live and let live”; industrial processes generate zero-waste; lifestyles of human beings are simple, harmonic, co-operative, and complementary; nature resources are sustainable.

The concept of bioeconomy has been operationalized for some time by the EU (not least within the European Bioeconomy Observatory, and as a part of the new EU Framework Program for Research& Innovation Horizon 2020). Bioeconomy can be an engine for creating jobs and economic activities in rural regions while being beneficial for the environment.

The etymology of “symbiosis” stems from ancient Greek, which means “together” and “living.” A more contemporary, restrictive definition is a “long-term interaction between two different biological species.” Therefore, symbiosis equals mutualism. Currently the widely accepted definition of de Bary, “the living together of unlike organisms”, associates symbiosis to the interactions of all species. Biologists have found a number of examples in wild nature, such as clownfish and sea anemone, Lactobacilli and other bacteria in human body, hermit crab and encrusting bryozoans, Phoretic mites on flies, and many other examples of plant-insect co-evolution.

Historically, symbiosis has received less attention than other inter-species interactions such as competition, the Darwinian notion of evolution. In the last century, the theory of symbiogenesis has gain popularity beyond the scientific community, and was written into textbooks after decades of debate. Biologists Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan claim that evolution is strongly based on co-operation, interaction, and mutual dependence among organisms. Inspired by the concept of symbiosis, the cooperative mode of interaction is not restricted to the sphere of biology and natural science, but to the encompassing societal arrangements. “Life did not take over the globe by combat, but by networking.”

Biohydrogen energy technology, echoing to the insight of symbiotic networks, offers a promising prospect for the development of future generations. Forerunners in the field include Hyvolution (Green Hydrogen) in the EU, and Asian bio-Hylink in Asia (ABHL), which aim to transform biomass from waste to biohydrogen, and to focus on renewable and sustainable industrial processes. Now these objectives are extended to a broader scope in HyMeTek in Feng Chia University, which is not only a biohydrogen process, but also a combined biomethane process in which the effluent of biohydrgoen reactor becomes the feedstock of the succeeding biomethane process. The combined process has higher energy gain and lower cost of waste water treatment. By incorporating biohydrogen and biomethane processes, the HyMeTek project is a fruitful pathway toward an attainable symbiotic eco-community.

Finally, symbiosis can not only be defined as biological systems, but also as a principle worth pursuing for human communities, embodied through the relations between people and nature, people and people, nation and nation, civilization and civilization, and beyond. By introducing the notion into industrial and energy processes, a promising step can be taken in obtaining our goal of sustainable and prosperous human communities.