Clean competition: improving uptake and the circular economy

In 2017 efforts are heating up to bridge Europe’s innovation gap and breathe new life into its “valley of death”. February 28th sees Brussels hosting ‘European Industry Day’, an event that brings together high-level policy makers and key representatives from both traditional and disruptive technology sectors to debate the future of European industry.

Europe is great at the science but the uptake of new technologies needs a shot in the arm, which is why industrial competitiveness is now squarely at the centre of all of the EC’s major policy initiatives. Earlier this year Brussels played host again, this time to the workshop on ‘Nanotechnologies and Advanced Materials for Regional Growth – The Challenge of Upscaling’. Pilot lines allow research to progress to an industrial scale, demonstrate uptake, enhance the industry’s ability to turn R&D into products fast and allow early market entry for new products with a competitive edge. There are obstacles in the road, however, and SMEs in particular need help to profit from pilot technologies, but these can be overcome through joint efforts from EU, national and regional initiatives.

Gathering together representatives of member states, project coordinators, exploitation leaders and pilot line developers, the workshop has afforded a look at how the uptake of pilot lines are being supported in the European context and gave participants a chance to discuss future strategies, such as synergies between Horizon 2020 and European Structural Investment Funds (ESIF). The key question is: what can be done to support the uptake of nanotech and advanced materials pilot lines and their services in order to boost the economy? In the future, special attention will be paid to SME upscaling and business implementation. The intention is to broaden the current approach by adding requirements for openness, networking, horizontal services and SME pilot upscaling cases for validation and transfer as well as providing innovation support to SMEs through innovation portals and networking activities. EuroNanoForum 2017 will boost exploitation of open access pilot lines by bringing on stage a bunch of interesting pilot line projects through a “pilots pitching event” (Session 14).

One sector where investment opportunity awareness is currently being raised is in the circular economy. The EC has recently been able to report on the delivery of its promise after adopting the Circular Economy Package one year ago, offering guidance on energy-to-waste conversion as well as working with the European Investment Bank (EIB), National Promotional Banks, institutional investors and other stakeholders to boost investment and promote best practices.

Among its chief aims are efforts to maximise the gains in waste-to-energy conversion. It might only count for a small for of Europe’s energy mix, but it’s a highly innovative area. In addition to waste prevention and recycling, the EC is pushing for updates to the RoHS Directive to substitute the use of hazardous materials in electrical and electronic equipment. It’s a move that could prevent 3,000 tonnes of hazardous waste a year and could stand to save the EU €170 million in healthcare costs alone.

The framework for a circular economy has been put together bit by bit and now the EC is calling on the European Parliament and Council to help lay the groundwork for a clean, circular and competitive EU economy.

Circular economy will be a key overall theme at EuroNanoForum 2017 touched in all sessions and especially in Session 5 focusing on Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology for a bio-based and circular economy.

Join the discussion at the event and bring your contribution to build a greener future!